URL shortening is everywhere, from the king of the crop Bit.ly to is.gd, j.mp and dear old faithful Tinyurl (to name just a few), it seems every month a new service launches.
If you tweet a wealth of links as I do then it’s an essential part of the process. Up until recently I have been a very happy Bit.ly user. It is constantly being improved and updated and the wealth of data and statistics, make it quite rightly the ‘special one’, especially with Twitter making it it’s ‘unofficial’ shortener of choice.
However there is a growing trend to create and use your own URL shortener, taking back control of your links in the event of another tr.im disaster. It is also a clever piece of branding, with every URL bearing your signature or name. Even Coca-Cola now use their own branded shortener.
I decided last week to experiment with my own shortener and on Friday I bought the domain gracesm.it (my first choice of gsm.it was unfortunately taken). I intended to redirect the domain to gracesm.it/h to make up my entire name, which also worked out well because Lessn (the URL package I would be using) works from a single letter sub-folder.
Lessn is a clean, quick DIY link shortening solution, I chose it, as unlike other services like Yourls, for example, the interface and functionality is elegant and perfectly efficient with a simple installation process.
It has a simple approach that only requires you to set up a username, password, and database details in a config.php file, then upload your whole Lessn package to your server.
You can then login, paste a link and get the short URL with your domain name attached, followed by a number or letter, for example: gracesm.it/h/8. Lessn also includes a bookmarklet which you can drag to your browser toolbar, you then click the bookmarklet and Lessn will then show you a page with the shortened link, the original link and a button to tweet the link.
With the back-end complete, it was time to create a holding page with some information on what the site was about. It is a simple HTML page sprinkled with a little CSS with a purposely minimalist design.
I also uploaded a nifty little add-on from Debut Creative called Listr which lists all the original URL’s plus the shortened URL in a table so you can review the entire database on one page. The page can be made either public or private, depending on your preference.
One of the main drawbacks of using something as simple as Lessn is the lack of statistics that a service like Bit.ly offers. However there are certainly other packages that offer tracking stats, but for pure simplicity and elegance, Lessn is a tough package to beat.
EDIT: Abraham Vegh in the comments kindly suggested using the Lessn Pepper which tracks the most recent and most popular urls and referrers in your Lessn installation and displays them. You will need to use Mint to view the stats though.
I’ve decided to use the shortener only when tweeting my own blog links until Tweetie allows custom URL shortening.
Tweetie 2.0 now supports custom URL shorteners (I hope the mac version will soon include this), and this means you can now use Lessn along with the best Twitter app around (my humble opinion).
- 10 Tools to run an URL Shortener on your own Domain
- How To Easily Create Your Own URL Shortener With WordPress
- 9 OpenSource URL shortening apps to make your own services
- How to create a Lessn & Bit.ly desktop shortener with Applescript
While there are advantages and disadvantages to using your own URL shortener, I think it’s a worthwhile addition for any blogger or tweeter looking to have both full control over their URL’s and reinforce their branding at the same time.
Is this an approach you have thought about taking? Or perhaps you are already using your own URL shortener.
If so, please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below on this growing trend.