Once upon a time not very long ago, the link shortening business appeared to be the tech world’s next golden egg. Site’s like TinyURL and Bitly were able to build fully-realized business models by condensing links down to more manageable Twitter lengths of roughly 20 characters long.
Financers were impressed. In October of last year, Bitly managed to raise another $9 million in series B funding with its 200 million clicks supplied per day. Currently, its global Alexa rank is 154 overall, while in the United States it cracks the top 100, sitting pretty at 97.
Then on Tuesday, Twitter announced that it was at long last implementing its own automatic link shortener, perhaps spelling certain doom for the aforementioned third-party services. If they can’t already, users will be able to paste a full-length link directly into Twitter, which will automatically shave it down to a character-saving 19 spaces.
“Just paste a link of any length into the Tweet box on Twitter.com. After you’ve composed your Tweet and you hit the ‘Tweet’ button, we’ll shorten the link so that it only takes up 19 characters,” writes Carolyn Penner in the Twitter blog. “Sharing links on Twitter.com is now simple and instant.”
It’s a handy, if overdue, functionality that follows shortly after Twitter’s $40 million acquisition of TweetDeck in May. Both instances point to Twitter’s strategy to build its own native services. Don’t forget photos, either.
However, Twitter’s native link shortener lacks something that third-parties like Bitly are able to offer: Metrics.
They’re useful for businesses and power users who want to monitor how many clicks their links are getting, and, for Bitly in particular, will likely be its saving grace.
Last year, Om Malik correctly predicted on Giga OM:
“The most important aspect of Bit.ly is not that it can shorten URLs. Instead, its real prowess lies in its ability to track the click-performance of those URLs, and conversations around those links. It doesn’t matter where those URLs are embedded — Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, instant messages or SMS messages — a click is a click and Bit.ly counts it, in real time.”
Twitter writes in its blog, “You can continue to use your favorite third-party link shortening services.” If Bitly anticipated Twitter’s inevitable jump into link-shortening, which it likely did, then a transition into a fully-realized metrics service won’t only save Bitly, but could put it in a position to be snatched up, especially if Twitter’s buying spree continues.
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