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Short review of Google's goo.gl address shortener

You've got another way to point people to a Web address in a minimum of characters -- goo.gl, a new link shortener from Google launched in limited form last year but now open to anybody with a Web browser.

(Note: People often call these services "URL shorteners," but I prefer to avoid that abbreviation, inasmuch as we have the plain-English alternative of "address.")

Google's shortener competes with numerous other options -- for example, TinyURL and bit.ly -- that all do the same thing: Turn lengthy, unwieldy addresses into brief shortcuts that you can easily share on Twitter, in other status updates or in print. For example, using goo.gl, you can convert "http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2009/08/link-shortener_trim_sees_its_l.html" into the much-tidier "http://goo.gl/OxH1."

Google touts its shortener's advantages as stability, security and speed -- though I can't say I've noticed any real shortfalls in those areas at competing services:

Stability: We've had near 100% uptime since our initial launch, and we've worked behind the scenes to make goo.gl even stabler and more robust.
Security: We've added automatic spam detection based on the same type of filtering technology we use in Gmail.
Speed: We've more than doubled our speed in just over nine months.

Goo.gl also provides a feature unmentioned in Google's post yesterday: It will generate a "QR code" graphic that you can scan with software on most cameraphones to go directly to that link.

The country code at the end of goo.gl -- it's the top-level domain for Greenland -- doesn't have the crummy political associations of New York-based bit.ly's Libyan top-level domain.

But otherwise, goo.gl falls short of my usual link shortener, bit.ly. (Note that The Post uses bit.ly's services to generate "wapo.st" shortcuts; .st is the country code for the African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, which I'm told is a perfectly nice democracy.) Bit.ly is much faster to use, with one-click copying of shortened links to your clipboard and a bookmarklet that, once dragged to your bookmarks menu or browser toolbar, generates shortcut addresses with a single click.

Bit.ly's bookmarklet also provides near-instant reporting of how many people clicked on your link, and how many people got to that page through other bit.ly links.

At Goo.gl, I have to return to the site to do those things unless I want to install third-party extensions in the Firefox or Chrome browsers.

But my real reason for avoiding goo.gl is this: I feel like I already use more than enough Google services. You have to draw the line somewhere, and it's easy to do so when Google' service doesn't offer meaningful advantages over the competition. Sorry, goo.gl developers.

Am I being too harsh there? What's your read on goo.gl? Give me your (short!) assessment of it in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 1, 2010; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Comments

I've been wondering why the Post uses shorteners? Why not just create your own short URL? It can't be /that/ hard. MD5 of the URL, and a lookup table for the mapping.

Posted by: wiredog | October 1, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I think "URL" is plain English by now. It's also more specific than "address" and shorter than "web address".

Posted by: cassander | October 1, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Don't know about other companies, but my organization's WebSense system automatically blocks every single WaPo link that's been shortened. Every story. But that's only about half million potential readers right there. So, I wouldn't worry about it.

Posted by: qtrfoil85 | October 1, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm just too old school, but I never click blind links of any kind.

Posted by: Dawny_Chambers | October 2, 2010 5:55 AM | Report abuse

Never knew Google had a shortener. I do like the idea of using a Greenland domain instead of Libya.

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Posted by: pisatrade | October 2, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Google has to control everything, and when a company tries to do that they fracture and fail.

Google reminds me of that old Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"

If you don't know the reference, google it.

Posted by: kkrimmer | October 2, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Never saw the point of short URLs except to hide the link you're sending people to. Ever heard of copy&paste?

Posted by: antispy | October 2, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Google reminds me of that old Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"

If you don't know the reference, google it.
------------------------------------------
You sure you can't provide a goo.gl link for that episode? Too hard for me to type the whole name.

Posted by: antispy | October 2, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Here you go: http://bit.ly/awyPZr

Posted by: spacecadetkid | October 2, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm missing it, but to me the biggest reason to tay with bit.yl is that I can put a bit.ly javascript link in my toolbar, click that link, and it creates the short URL for me. No cut-and-paste, no switching windows, etc.

Posted by: pjgeraghty | October 2, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

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