bit.ly.Pro: Create Short URLs With Your Own Domain

As Twitter has rapidly risen to dominate the real-time web, related applications and services have also come to prominence; many in the field of URL shortening. Foremost amongst these is bit.ly, which today released a Pro edition of the service.

bitly.Pro is, in essence, a “white-label” edition of the public service, where a short URL such as http://bit.ly/bHRDfP can now be replaced by one with a custom domain, such as http://imrn.me/bHRDfP.

As well as the ability to utilise a custom domain, bitly.Pro also provides a dashboard view, enabling users to view analytics on all the links shared from your custom domain. I put bitly.Pro through its paces today by registering my new domain — imrn.me. Setting up the service is surprisingly easy; here’s how I did it:

  1. I registered imrn.me with GoDaddy.
  2. I changed the domain’s nameserver settings to point at my own MediaTemple-hosted server.
  3. I altered the DNS records (A and CNAME) for the new domain to verify and redirect to bit.ly.pro.
  4. I logged into bitly.Pro with my standard bit.ly account details to link both account histories.
  5. Used the standard bit.ly bookmarklet to generate my first custom shortened URL: http://imrn.me/90mM9Q

All in all, the entire setup process took me around 10-15 minutes and the new real-time analytics dashboard will prove useful in tracking the “virality” of my shared links. Sadly, your shortened URLs still share their namespace with other bit.ly users, so your domain will still be suffixed by a five-character reference.

However, other than vanity and analytics, there are good reasons for employing a custom domain for your shortening your URLs.

Why use a custom domain?

In recent months, there’s been much discussion on the impact short URLs are having on the long-term stability of the web; notably by weakening the web with centralised hyperlinks, reducing transparency, introducing unwelcome interstitials and providing opportunities for phishing attacks.

Delicious creator Joshua Schacter suggests some publishers should offer their own shortening services to mitigate some of the negative circumstances of shortening.

Indeed, we’ve recently seen brands such as Flickr, TechCrunch, WordPress and Google offer short URLs such as flic.kr, tcrn.ch, wp.me & goo.gl.

For such prominent brands, content publishers and even prolific Twitter users, bitly.Pro offers a useful form of transparency and trust to users clicking on shortened links.

Though the service doesn’t address the problem of centralization of links, it’s a step in the right direction. For those who demand more control, installing a hosted URL shortening app may be more appropriate.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Report: The Real-Time Enterprise

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