While doing evil, reluctantly: Size, er trust matters.

These Interwebs are a mess. One can’t trust anyone. Especially not link drops, since Twitter decided to break the Web by raping all of its URIs. Twitter’s sloppy URI gangbang became the Web’s biggest and most disgusting clusterfuck in no time.

Evil URI shortenersI still can’t agree to the friggin’ “N” in SNAFU when it comes to URI shortening. Every time I’m doing evil myself at sites like bit.ly, I’m literally vomiting all over the ‘net — in Swahili, er base36 pidgin.

Besides the fact that each and every shortened URI manifests a felonious design flaw, the major concern is that most –if not all– URI shorteners will die before the last URI they’ve shortened is irrevocable dead. And yes, shit happens all day long — RIP tr.im et al.

Letting shit happen is by no means a dogma. We shouldn’t throw away common sense and best practices when it comes to URI management, which, besides avoiding as many redirects as possible, includes risk management:

What if the great chief of Libya all of a sudden decides that gazillions of bit.ly-URIs redirecting punters to their desired smut aren’t exactly compatible to the Qur’an? All your bit.ly URIs will be defunct over night, and because you rely on traffic from places you’ve spammed with your shortened URIs, you’ll be forced to downgrade your expensive hosting plan to a shitty freehost account that displays huge Al-Quaeda or even Weight-Watchers banners above the fold of your pathetic Web pages.

In related news, even the almighty Google just pestered the Interwebs with just another URI shortener’s website: Goo.gl. It promises stability, security, and speed.

Well, at the day it launched, I broke it with recursive chains of redirects, and meanwhile creative folks like Dave Naylor perhaps wrote a guide on “hacking goo.gl for fun and profit”. #abuse

Of course there are bugs in a brand new product. But Google is a company iterating code way faster than most Internet companies, and due to their huge user base and continuous testing under operating conditions they’re aware of most of their bugs. They’ll fix them eventually, and soon goo.gl –as promised– will be “the stablest, most secure, and fastest URL shortener on the Web”.

So, just based on the size of Google’s infrastructure, it seems goo.gl is going to be the most reliable one out of all evil URI shorteners. Kinda queen of all royal PITAs. But is this a good enough reason to actually use goo.gl? Not quite enough, yet.

Go ask a Googler “Can you guarantee that goo.gl will outlive the Internet?”. I got answers like “I agree with your concern. I thought about it myself. But I’m confident Google will try its very best to preserve that”. From an engineer’s perspective, all of them agree with my statement “URI shortening totally sucks ass”. But IRL the Interwebs are flooded with crappy shortURLs, and that’s not acceptable. They figured that URI shortening can’t be eliminated, so it had to be enhanced by a more reliable procedure. Hence bright folks like Muthu Muthusrinivasan, Devin Mullins, Ben D’Angelo et al created goo.gl, with mixed feelings.

That’s why I recommend the lesser evil. Not because Google is huge, has the better infrastructure, picked a better domain, and the whole shebang. I do trust these software engineers, because they think and act like me. Plus, they’ve got the resources.

I’m going goo.gl.
I’ll dump bit.ly etc.

Fineprint: However, I won’t throw away my very own URI shortener, because this evil piece of crap can do things the mainstream URI shorteners –including goo.gl– are still dreaming of, like preventing search angine crawlers from spotting affiliate links and such stuff. Shortening links alone doesn’t equal cloaking fishy links professionally.

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2 Comments to "While doing evil, reluctantly: Size, er trust matters."

  1. Rob O. on 4 November, 2010  #link

    Seems that the mentality of most is that, since their shortened URLs are being used for utterly disposable social networking stuff like Twitter, it’s no big deal if those links go belly up.

    So, okay, I guess I can sorta buy that. So, my personal rule is to use shortened URLs in Twitter or Facebook, but never in a blog post or any other page on my own site.

  2. Sebastian on 4 November, 2010  #link

    Rob, some of the transient “disposable shit” you throw at social media outlets will stick at a wall somewhere, as persistent link that’s clickable, crawlable, searchable, visible for ages. I know you want to rethink your statement, and you’ll make use of more reliable URIs in the future. ;-)

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