What's a URL?
A URL ("Uniform Resource Locator") is an address of a file or other resource on the Web. Sometimes, like www.scls.info, they're nice and short. Other times they might look more like this:
Why would you shorten a URL?
- You want to disguise the underlying URL. Maybe you're up to no good and you want your victims to click on it and be whisked away to a page that will infect their PC with viruses. OR... maybe you just want a simpler URL that's easier to type
- You want a URL with fewer characters. Again, this may be to simplify it for typing and sharing. OR, as is common these days, it may be because you want to tweet or text it and you have limitations on the number of characters you may use.
How can you easily shorten a URL for sharing?
There are many commercial services that will shorten URLs for you. You paste the long URL into a box on their site, click a button to shorten it, and the service spits out a shorter URL that you can use. What happens behind the scenes is that the short URL they provide actually redirects to the longer URL you submitted.
(Note: the original link was toTripWire Magazine, but their site appears to be dishing out "nasties" so I have removed the link. Very sorry about that -- a bad choice on my part!) REVISED: Take a look at this Lifehacker article about choosing a "speedy and reliable" URL shortener: http://lifehacker.com/5496415/all-url-shorteners-are-not-equal-pick-a-speedy-and-reliable-one
And here's a list of some unusual ("cool"?) URL shorteners from MakeUseOf.com: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-cool-url-shorteners-twist/
Some URL shortening services provide toolbar buttons to make this process even easier. And some services allow you to create an account to keep track of URLs you have shortened and see how many times these shortened URLs are clicked on.
Be cautious about shortened URLs
Because shortened URLs take you somewhere else, it's important to use some caution and common sense. Take a look at the TechBits post "Sneaky little URLs" for more information.
Thanks for Sue at Reedsburg for suggesting this topic!