Facebook and Google both now have their own URL shorteners to help users share links that are short and simple. Facebook’s, fb.me, isn’t exactly rolled out yet, but it appears to automatically change facebook.com links when they appear in its mobile interface. Google, meanwhile, introduced goo.gl for its Toolbar and for sending feeds to Twitter through Feedburner, but says the product could be expanded.
The rise of URL shorteners can be entirely attributable to Twitter, whose strict character limits necessitated ways to share links without wasting space. Early on, Twitter used a pre-existing service, TinyURL, but in May it switched to Bit.ly, which is backed by Twitter shareholder Betaworks. Now, many content and social sites (including ours) offer their own short URLs as a convenience for users.
The hidden value of short URLs is that they are trackable, sending information back to the source about how web pages are shared and which ones are popular before they are resolved to the actual URL. A short URL is a lot slicker than a toolbar frame that follows a user when she clicks off-site, which is something Facebook had implemented about a year ago but has since phased out. The currency of today’s web is links, and that’s what these moves are about. Frankly, at this point, it’s weird that Twitter doesn’t own Bit.ly.