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Two internet heavyweights are entering the URL shortening business, despite its lack of a solid business model. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) says it is adding a URL shortener to its Toolbar and Feedburner products, which will now shorten long URLs to the goo.gl URL. Facebook, meanwhile, is automatically shortening some links shared on mobile phones to the fb.me URL, InsideFacebook reports.
Facebook’s ultimate plan for its shortening service is unclear. And Google says that for now its shortener will be limited only to content shared on Feedburner and via the Toolbar. But in a blog post Google says that “if the service proves useful, we may eventually make it available for a wider audience in the future.”
That has to be a cause for concern for other players in the URL shortener market, especially venture-backed bit.ly, which is currently the dominant player, due to its position as the default URL shortener on Twitter. Even before Google’s entry into the market there were already questions about whether there was any money to be made in URL shortening. Tr.im owner Nambu, for instance, said in August that it intended to shut down its service exactly for that reason.
Bit.ly, however, which has raised $2 million in funding, has talked about charging users for robust data access and also possibly creating a real-time news service that would track stories gaining traction.
So far, though, we haven’t seen any developments on those fronts. Updated: That was fast. Bit.ly just launched a new service called bit.ly Pro which lets web publishers create their own custom URLs and provides a ‘dashboard’ so that they can get a sense of how their links are being shared. The service is free — for now.