August 10, 2009

Editor’s note: This blog post was written and published before announced that it had been restored. For more background, visit’s Web site.

This week’s demise of URL shortener may come as a bit of a needed wake-up call to bloggers and news Web managers who have become accustomed to relying on free services to drive traffic to their sites.

The company announced on Sunday that:

“ is now in the process of discontinuing service, effective immediately.

“Statistics can no longer be considered reliable, or reliably available going forward. However, all links will continue to redirect, and will do so until at least December 31, 2009. Spacer Spacer

“Your tweets with URLs in them will not be affected.We regret that it came to this, but all of our efforts to avoid it failed.

“No business we approached wanted to purchase for even a minor amount.There is no way for us to monetize URL shortening — users won’t pay for it — and we just can’t justify further development since Twitter has all but annointed the market winner.

“There is simply no point for us to continue operating, and pay for its upkeep.We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience this may cause you.”

Amy Gahran recently wrote a related Tidbit in which she laid out the challenges that hosted URL shortening services present:

  • Reliability. If a shortening service you use goes down or dies, links to your content would cease to function.
  • Security. If the shortener you use gets hacked, your existing links could end up pointing to different destinations and could perpetrate phishing attacks on would-be visitors to your site.
  • Branding. When you use a hosted shortener service, the links you create visually promote their brand, not yours”

According to Tweetmeme, accounted for less than 4 percent of the shortener market, compared to nearly 80 percent for, so the overall impact to Web traffic will be minimal.

The real lesson in all this, though, is that services without business models are a risk to users. If you are planning to build a mission-critical feature on the back of a free Web tool, think again.

Yes, there are plenty of good reasons to use free tools, and in most cases “good enough” is good enough. But, consider’s passing — and the list of other former Web 2.0 companies in the deadpool — to be a fair warning.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.

More News

Back to News