Twitter has just announced a big change to the way URLs are used within their site. Their goal is to eliminate the mystery of shortened links and prevent harmful spam, malware, and phishing attacks by rolling out an official URL shortening tool on Twitter called t.co, and in doing so, they may have just put an end to bit.ly and other major URL shorteners with millions of users.
In their most recent blog post, Twitter’s Sean Garrett has announced the change and explained how it works and protects users. Basically, all links on Twitter will be “wrapped” in their t.co short URL by default, eliminating the need for 3rd party URL shorteners. Right now, they are testing and tweaking this service on a few employees accounts, but plan to roll the changes out application-wide this summer.
Here’s how it works:
When this is rolled out more broadly to users this summer, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL. A really long link such as http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048 might be wrapped as http://t.co/DRo0trj for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to web or application users as amazon.com/Delivering- or as the whole URL or page title. Ultimately, we want to display links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened link and lets you know where a link will take you.
In addition to a better user experience and increased safety, routing links through this service will eventually contribute to the metrics behind our Promoted Tweets platform and provide an important quality signal for our Resonance algorithm—the way we determine if a Tweet is relevant and interesting to users. We are also looking to provide services that make use of this data, an example would be analytics within our eventual commercial accounts service.
What will happen to bit.ly, ow.ly, and the many, many other URL shortners that have banked on the fact that they will be the official or unofficial shortening service for users, only to find out that Twitter itself has implemented their own and eliminated the need for 3rd party applications? Only time will tell.
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