URI shorteners are crap. Each and every shortened URI expresses a design flaw. All –or at least most– public URI shorteners will shut down sooner or later, because shortened URIs are hard to monetize. Making use of 3rd party URI shorteners translates to “put traffic at risk”. Not to speak of link love (PageRank, Google juice, link popularity) lost forever.
Search engines could provide a way out of the sURL dilemma that Twitter & Co created with their crappy, thoughtless and shortsighted software designs. Here’s how:
Most browsers support search queries in the address bar, as well as suggestions (aka search results) on DNS errors, and sometimes even 404s or other HTTP response codes other than 200/3x. That means browsers “ask a search engine” when an HTTP request fails.
When a TLD is out of service, search engines could have crawled a 301 or meta refresh from a page formerly living on a
.yu domain for example. They know the new address and can lead the user to this (working) URI.
The same goes for shortened URIs created ages ago by URI shortening services that died in the meantime. Search engines have transferred all the link juice from the shortened URI to the destination page already, so why not point users that request a dead short URI to the right destination?
Search engines have all the data required for rescuing short URIs that are out of service in their datebases. Not de-indexing “outdated” URIs belonging to URI shorteners would be a minor tweak. At least Google has stored attributes and behavior of all links on the Web since the past century, and most probably other search engines are operated by data rats too.
URI shorteners can be identified by simple patterns. They gather tons of inbound links from foreign domains that get redirected (not always using a 301!) to URIs on other 3rd party domains. Of course that applies to some AdServers too, but rest assured search engines do know the differences.
So why the heck didn’t Google,
Yahoo/MSN Bing, and Ask offer such a service yet? I thought it’s all about users, but I might have misread something. Sigh.
By the way, I’ve recorded search engine misbehavior with regard to shortened URIs that could arouse Jack The Ripper, but that’s a completely other story.
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