The creator of a new URL-shortening service, urlborg, recently wrote to me to announce some new features. There are, at this point, quite a few of these URL-shortening services. I’m sure each has differentiating features, but before I explore the differences I’d like to see a new and important kind of commonality.
Each of these services invites you to invest in creating a set of short URLs that point to your own longer URLs. None of them provides any guarantees about the future availability of those short URLs. I’d love to see these services form an association that does make such guarantees.
There can never be a simple solution to the problem of linkrot. We don’t own domain names, we only rent them. As content management systems evolve, so often do the URLs they project onto the web. Even if an association of URL-shortening services guaranteed the continuity of short URLs, the long URLs behind them would remain as fragile as they are today.
Still, it would be an inspiring and forward-looking experiment to try. What if TinyURL, snurl, urlborg, and the others were members of an association that would inherit the URL mappings of any member that ceased to honor them? Given such a guarantee, I’d be much more willing to invest in the creation of URL mappings with any of the members, and to explore the features that differentiate them.