WP.me: Bad Idea, But Predictable

Short URLs like Tinyurl.com were created for serve a valuable purpose, as URLs get long (think long query string, or SEO friendly long text strings), emailing a link is problematic for those using text mail clients as the text wraps around.

Twitter’s use of “shortened” URLs for the 140 character limit are totally arbitrary.  If you are sending it via SMS, the protocol supports a URL being passed along as data, not text.  Further, one could always shorten the URLs for SMS purposes and not on the web.  And on the website, you could use anchor text, the words that you click on, instead of the URL itself.

Nonetheless, Twitter decided to not support URL as special items, and the shrunken URL became a part of Twitter culture and it is here for any area that posting a link doesn’t show anchor text.

Now WP.me is a horrid idea.  Creating a special WordPress.com URL isn’t a horrible think, for those that are Username.wordpress.com, switching to Username.wp.me seems pretty harmless, and offering a shrunken URL format seems fine.  The “Permalink” of /year/month/day/URL-friendly-title works for Pre-2000 Internet days that the search engines still live in, making it SEO friendly, but less friendly for today’s world of Social Media and quick URL sharing.

However, that doesn’t appear what they are doing.  They appear to be pushing it as a shortening service, so you can still be AlexHochberger.com, but your links will be WP.me/ASDFAD if you choose to use Short URLs.  I suppose this serves a purpose for Twitter posts worried about Link Rot, but it also may trap you on WordPress.com.  If you outgrow their limited Blog feature set, how do you make certain that your WP.me links don’t rot out.  Wordpress.com seems a bit more stable than Bit.ly, but if Bit.ly survives long term, your links are save, WP.me may only work on a single host.

Given Bit.ly’s sharing a VC relationship with Twitter, I think that they are pretty safe, because if they can’t figure out a business model, VCs can usually force a merge up of their two investments.

Twitter Users and Businesses are in a Bubble

TinyURL.com has been around forever (didn’t realize it was just 2002, until they got publicity), people used them when ugly nasty query strings broke in emails.  They predated Twitter, predated Social media, and predated link popularity as a mainstream thing to worry about.

Tr.im didn’t seem to have a model other than “I’ll knock off TinyURL” with 6 fewer characters using an international TLD that seems Web 2.0 and clever.  They seem extremely upset that Bit.ly, with one extra character ripped off their idea.

The fact is, there is NO reason that Twitter counts URL characters in Tweets.  The idea of a microblog was the SMS integration, hence the 140 character restriction, the 160 of SMS less 20 to handle control characters.  Twitter could easily treat your URL as a symbol, relaying it as a normal URL on the website, and a Bit.ly one on their SMS connections with the appropriate character count.

Twitter is a small percentage of the Internet.  It’s a fascinating exploration of how a simple technology can capture imagination and run with it, most of Twitter, @username, #hashtags, and shortened URLs were all things pushed by the user base, not Twitter with it’s simple Follow/Following/Feed base approach to their data.

However, TinyURL had 70% of their traffic from non-Twitter, Tr.im seemed to have no push other than Twitter, and left the company in the lurch.  I find the whole thing kind of silly, Twitter ought to roll URL shortening into their package, and stop molesting links when it’s not needed (on the website) and shorten where the 140 character limit matters.  But Twitter isn’t a technology company, they are a social fad with a only presence.

95% of Americans don’t Tweet, so while Twitter is exciting to a part of the technology elite, it’s not where most Americans go to find things, so overstating its importance is a bit silly.  Email and Web search still dominate the Internet usage, social media may get there, but Twitter is not the end all and be all of the universe.

This makes Tr.im’s whining about Bit.ly not only counter productive and pointless, but also wrong.