In last Monday's SearchDay, I mentioned an article in a Spanish language newspaper that had good coverage of the Arab Internet. In addition to linking directly to the page, I also included a link to freetranslation.com that translated the page from Spanish into English.
The link was long, ugly, full of weird characters, and split across several lines. To use this link, you needed to cut and paste to reassemble it, being careful not to delete any characters. Offering a link to this translation was a solution, but not a very helpful one.
SearchDay reader Ian Watt alerted me to a free service that solves the messy, ugly, long URL problem, in a basic yet elegant way. MakeAShorterLink.com is simplicity itself -- it accepts long URLs and outputs a very short one that's easy to email, include in newsletters, add to your own bookmarks or favorites list, or even use in your own online link lists or directories.
Simply enter the URL you want to shorten, and MakeAShorterLink stores it in its database, providing you with a shortcut URL. For example, the translation URL I mentioned above:
Was shortened to:
Clicking the shorter link displays a transition page showing the expanded URL, so you can verify that it's really the page you're requesting. You can either click the link or wait a few seconds to be redirected to the actual page of the underlying URL itself. If you'd rather bypass the transition page, you can set an option that allows you to do so.
The site is completely free -- no registration required. It's maintained as a service to the web community by the Useful Information Company, a loose collection of Internet professionals, specializing in the site production process, XML, database-backed web sites and content management.
Can you rely on these shorter links being available on an ongoing basis? Here's what the FAQ says:
"Put it this way: as long as we are in charge of the database, the links will continue to work. If the time comes when we run out of money or interest in maintaining it, we shall make the database available to anyone who wants to take it on. We hesitate to say 'forever,' because that's a very long time indeed. But the links will remain usable for a long time."
While I wouldn't rely on MakeAShorterLink for mission critical or archival links, I certainly plan to make use of it in future issues of SearchDay. A nod of thanks to both Ian Watt for the heads-up and to the folks at the Useful Information Company for this terrific service.
Make a Shorter Link
NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.