Should we use Tiny URLs?

I seemed to have inadvertently opened up a can of worms in starting to use Tiny URLs in my daily email. The aim was to reduce the clutter that lots of long links can cause. Below is an email from Teitur objecting to the move And he wasn’t the only one. Let me know what you think as we’re happy to be guided by you.


Good day

I don’t think using Tiny URLs is a good idea. First of all they cloak the path so your users can not see where they are going. I know that many, many people do not like that. Many people also don’t like being redirected.

Secondly and more importantly Zone Alarm Security lists Tiny URLs as a spysite. Zone Labs is one of the most trusted security providers out there and those who are with them generally trust their listings.

You might have just shut out all Zone Alarm users. That could mean quite a few people. At least I know that I won’t be going through these links…

In any case – What clutter was cleared up now? The URLs are like maps and names or even roadsigns, they show you where something is. It’s not like they are being typed into the browser in any case, people follow the link directly or they copy it, and if they would be written directly /5f2eu8 is not exactly a quick and easy handle..

Also if Zone Alarm is listing them it is not unlikely that other Security providers, such as Symantec is as well.

Well – till later


18 Responses to “Should we use Tiny URLs?”

  1. July 29, 2008 at 13:59

    I know there are many advantage of using tinyurl. However, I don’t think your wordpress address is too long complicated and for me, it is fine to see the long links.. I believe most people will just click on the link instead of retyping it..

    P.S. I am using wordpress on a server and I can change the links of wordpress articles into numbers – but I have to install some plugins (not sure whether you can do it on wordpress.com as well..)

  2. July 29, 2008 at 14:18

    Do not use TinyURL. I do not see any problems with the way in which the links have been presented in the past.

  3. 3 Shirley
    July 29, 2008 at 14:29

    I prefer the a href method that replaces the http stuff with some text. When I mouseover the text, I can see what the link is in the status bar below.

  4. 4 Lode
    July 29, 2008 at 14:30

    I don’t really object to *not* using TinyURLs, as the url structure of WHYS is quite clear.

    I do however not follow the security reasoning given above.

    Zone labs may list TinyURL as a spy site (because it can indeed be used to redirect users to malware), but the same risk exists at wordpress.com/blogspot.com. (See this link for more info: http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/214371/google-blogger-hosts-2-of-worlds-malware.html)

    I respect your descision to blindly trust your security software, but I think this gives a false sense of security, and educating users is a much better approach in the long run.

    If you don’t like the “added” clutter of the tinyurl, you can choose a more descriptive alias. (eg. http://tinyurl.com/tinyurlornot)

    I’d propose not to use them for links to the WHYS blog (95% of the time), because they’re quite descriptive, but to use them (or a tinyurl-like plugin on the blog itself – if that’s at all possible at hosted blogs) for longer, non-descriptive urls which might break in e-mail clients. (eg. links to Google maps)

  5. 5 Dennis
    July 29, 2008 at 14:39

    Ros and the rest of our fearless time at World Have Your Say…..

    Do not used TINY–URLS’…..

    I agreed with the posting at 29 July 2008
    at 2.18pm……

    Syracuse, New York
    United States of America

  6. 6 steve
    July 29, 2008 at 15:06

    Couldn’t people post links to, er rather disturbing images, and us unfortunately mods would have to click every link to make sure it’s what it purports to be? Might cause some distress to say the least.

  7. 7 Jessica in NYC
    July 29, 2008 at 15:35

    I agree. I rarely click on tiny urls without know the source, 9 out of 10 times I’ll dismiss it. To be honest, rather tired of reading about people complaining about the clutter or length of the daily emails. There is a wonderful delete key on everyone’s keyboard and email programs. I recommend it, it’s one of my favorites.

  8. 8 Barbara in Johannesburg
    July 29, 2008 at 15:55

    I’ve no idea what a tiny url is & this correspondence is all geek to me. Probably fits in with the short, sharp posts requirement.

  9. 9 Ros Atkins
    July 29, 2008 at 15:58

    I’m only talking about the daily email, not the blog…

  10. 10 Chris (Texas)
    July 29, 2008 at 16:18

    Having worked in IT security for quite some time, I can understand the objections from some. I for one definitely don’t like the fact I can not see the destination URL is a bit disturbing. However, I would think that most normal users who don’t check those things (the people that always have viruses), it’s probably not a big deal. A link is a link to them. To be honest, I won’t complain about the Tiny URL situation, because I consider WHYS a trusted source. Count me as on the fence….

  11. 11 Lubna
    July 29, 2008 at 16:38

    My dearest Ros : Salaam… Long live brevity… Long live tiny URLs… Using tiny URLs will make the WHYS daily email look lovelier, tidier, and more classy… Why are children in general more adorable and lovelier than adults ?! Because children are tiny ! :-)… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  12. July 29, 2008 at 16:47

    TinyUrls are relatively harmless as of now. The problem is that you are putting yourself at risk of future twists and turns in the corporate politics of a very successful internet start-up. It’s been around for a while now and as far as I know there are no plans to change, but what if Tinyurl introduced a second layer of redirection, say to an ad page displayed for 3 seconds prior to forwarding you on to your original destination? Sounds far-fetched I agree, (but then that’s what everyone said about FaceBook) but what if Google bought Tiny for $2Bn and then decided to do just that? Tiny have a database of millions (billions ??) of redirected links and it’s growing by the hour . . . that data is very saleable. . . come to think of it, I hope it’s backed up somewhere??

  13. 13 Pangolin- California
    July 29, 2008 at 19:29

    Tiny URL’s can become a very effective tool for composing in formats that do not allow embedded HTML redirects. For general consumption where people could be worried about ‘work-safe’ links then it is very simple to use the ‘preview’ feature on the TinyURL website like this: http://preview.tinyurl.com/64sccs

    That’s the TinyURL for https://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com but sometimes the TinyURL feature can allow linkage to things like specific Google search strings that would be unwieldy to use otherwise.

    So yes. Use the TinyURL’s where appropriate and as appropriate.

  14. 14 Dennis
    July 29, 2008 at 20:12

    Revised to my earlier….

    Thanks for the clarification…..

    Syracuse, New York

  15. 15 Ana Milena, Colombia
    July 29, 2008 at 20:55

    Hi, everyone! 🙂
    I wonder whether it’s possible to use labeled links instead of plain links. It just depends on the options you’ve got in your Mail Server – those which only allow plain text don’t offer this possibility.

    The reasons for keeping from using short URLs are understandable, I tried them once when I had my website and it wasn’t convenient, sadly.
    But they come to be helpul for avoiding a saturation of addresses in the message, so I think labeled links might be effective as well as the use of short URLs only when necessary (e.g. addressing the pages for discussions, not the sources).

    😉 Cheers!

  16. 16 Will Rhodes
    July 29, 2008 at 22:32

    I can’t see the problem with TinyURL but it is, as always, a matter of people trusting the content of your e-mails, Ros.

  17. 17 Teitur
    August 1, 2008 at 20:21

    The main thing from my point of view is this:

    TinyURLs are blacklisted by my firewall, I agree with it and wouldn’t click such links in general and thus don’t see a reason to whitelist it.

    If there is some wonderous tricky magic which allows me to only allow tinyurls contained in emails by Ros Atkins or other trusted sources – please enlighten me.

    But I’ll still stress the earlier point..

    -If it ain’t broke – don’t “fix” it!

  18. January 8, 2009 at 21:18

    We have a solution over here that should solve the problem. We were dealing with the same problem. We wanted tiny URLs, but didn’t like that they tend to raise the hackles of certain firewalls, filters, etc.

    They probably also dilute your brand/sem somewhat. Let me know if this helps, or if you find any bugs. We just wrote it for ourselves, but polished it up a little bit so others could use it, too.



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