In the past few weeks, the Twitter crowd has seen a popular URL shortener disappear, then reappear. However, the initial disappearance has left many wondering what would really happen if Tr.im disappeared and all those URLs broke? This has lead to a sharp increase in the amount of DIY URL shorteners where you don’t have to rely on a third party. Heck, even WordPress.com/Automattic has jumped on the URL shortener bandwagon as I mentioned in an earlier post. I’m still waiting for WP.ME to become available for WordPress.org but until that happens, Blair Williams has got in touch with me to let me know about a plugin he developed called Pretty Link.
Pretty Link is a plugin that enables you to use your own domain to create short URLs that you can share. In this instance, my short URLs look a little something like this http://www.wptavern.com/6ut which don’t bother clicking, it’s not active anymore. So I launch into my first gripe and that is, the URL is huge compared to bit.ly or is.gd. But the benefit is that I can control the target URL of this specific URL and it’s housed on my domain so it won’t disappear unless my domain disappears. Also as part of the package, I can turn on tracking for the URL to measure statistics. Speaking of stats, Pretty Link provides an option to either track normally or via a tracking pixel. The tracking pixel is interesting because you could create a special landing page for those that go through your affiliate link with this tracking pixel on it which would provide you an easy way to track stats related to purchases.
Pretty Link also provides options to give the link a temporary or permanent redirect. One of the more interesting features is the ability to forward parameters within links. You can even apply custom parameter settings which ought to be a hit with those who want to share a link to a script or URL that contains a bunch of parameters. For the SEO minded, you can choose to No Follow a link or Follow.
Last but not least, the other major feature of Pretty Link resides in the PrettyBar. Ever visit a link on Twitter that was shortened with Ow.ly and the top of the browser had a big dumb iFrame that got in the way? Now you can do that as well with a full compliment of design options to give your bar a custom look and feel. Thankfully, most of these iFrames provide an X on the right side of the window which makes it easy for me to get rid of. PrettyBar is no exception as it too has a way to easily discard it.
One of the last links you’ll see in the menu will be to Pretty Link Pro. You can’t use Pretty Link pro unless you have a username and password which you’ll get when you pay the price of $97.00 which by the way, is the price of the product before it launches. On September 1st, the price goes up to $147.00. From everything I could read, it seems like the paid upgrade is GPL compliant.
There is no doubt that this plugin has a ton to offer for those looking to use their own in house URL shortener that they can fully control, complete with stats and a user designed iFrame. However, there are a couple things that keep me from using a plugin like this for URL shortening.
While it’s not incredibly difficult, I don’t see myself routinely going into the Pretty Link area to create new URLs to send out to people after I publish a post. Instead, I’ll continue to publish the post, visit the post after it’s been published and then create a TinyURL based on the URL thanks to the TinyURL creator FireFox extension. Boy has that thing been a time saver for me. When it comes to short URLs, I’ve decided that I don’t care about stats, and I don’t care about the longevity of a URL. The URL is meant to be short and used right now with relevance quickly fading with each passing day. Tiny URLs to me are throwaways.
I wouldn’t mind seeing some sort of integration into the Write Panel so that I can click a button or create the URL in that panel rather than having to go through two panels outside of each other. Doing all of that stuff in one session would make things much better. I just want to create a short URL to the post and send it out to a bunch of people. I don’t care about anything else. The easier this process is, the more likely I’ll use it.
So in the end, I won’t be using this plugin because my needs for TinyURLs are met by the TinyURL FireFox extension which really does make short URL creation so easy. In fact, it even copies the generated URL to the clipboard for me which is thoughtful. But while this plugin is not for me, I can certainly see the opportunities for it to be used by a wide variety of people, especially those with affiliate links.