The old joke goes that 2+2=5 for very large values of 2. This week, when Twitter announced their t.co link shorterner they also announced a move to allow “very large values” of 140.
In addition to weeding out malware in links shared on Twitter (which I have to admit leads to some scary places…will they also censor links to bittorrent or The Pirate Bay someday?) t.co will give bit.ly, is.gd and the other link shorteners a run for their money by providing something those other services don’t: clarity.
What Twitter aims to do is shorten a link shared on twitter to something similar to what we are accustomed to seeing from bit.ly. In their example they shorten a full link to Amazon, in this case http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048 to http://t.co/DRo0trj – pretty similar to a bit.ly creation. The magic comes in the translation back into the Twitter stream where the shortened link is view as, per their example, amazon.com/Delivering-. Now anyone seeing this link in their Twitter stream would know that it’s a link to Amazon, a trustworthy site and not a phishing scheme.
Unless another top level domain opens up that is only one letter long Twitter should have the edge among link shortening services with a 3 character domain for t.co. Translating the link into something understandable by a human is a good move as well. Unless I see a shortened link from someone I really trust I look for the long version first before I click the link. A little piece of mind would be nice.
Describing the link as originating, like in the example, from Amazon also frees up room for the sender to add their own message. No need to say “check out this book from Amazon” when you can say “Best business read in a while” with Amazon mentioned directly in the link.
Just for fun, I checked out bit.ly/amazon. Thankfully it goes directly to Amazon, but there was a risk I could end up in the land of popups.