No. The first extremely popular link shortener was TinyURL, and it launched in 2002, years before Twitter existed. Link shorteners became popular because URLs for some websites are extremely long and unweildy, and are thereby difficult to type; they also have tons of puncutation, and are at danger of being mangled by various transports due to line wrapping, escaping, and character mapping.
IIRC, makeashorterlink.com was the first popular one, but for reasons that seem obvious and ironic now, tinyurl quickly supplanted it. Bit.ly was the first to really take domain name shortening to the extreme and was also the first to be popularised by Twitter.
You can redirect based on the browser fingerprint, IP address, or any number of things.
I have a proof-of-concept of this at http://brokenthings.org/
It redirects to a "friendly" site for preview scanners, etc., and to a "bad" site (Youtube videos, with some stale ones) for users.
It's blocked by Facebook, but still works on G+.
Wow, so many different people tracking a single link.
These are super annoying once they changed to storing the actual URL on the server. The old "redirect?to=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.example.com" style could be re-written on the client to remove the click-tracking, but by storing it on the server, you have to be tracked to get the URL. These seriously need to go away - that's way too many tracking databases just waiting to get a subpoena or "national security letter".
side note: The only time I ever used a url shortener was for a meme that unfortunately never went anywhere:
Paste in a shortened link and it will tell you the original URL, listing all the intermediate steps on the way. It also has an API.
If I click an Instagram link in a tweet (since Instagram images no longer show up inline on Twitter), it loads the t.co link in my web browser, and then launches the instagram app to show me the photo. If I then press my phone's "back" button, it takes me back to my web browser, and I have to press "back" again to get back to the Twitter app. It also leaves the t.co link in my web browser's list of active tabs, so the next time I open my web browser, it hijacks me and launches me back into Instagram. It would not be difficult for the Twitter app to resolve t.co links before launching anything, mitigating this issue entirely.
If I want to send you a link to a washingtonpost.com article the link looks like:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ej-dionne-jr-the-root...
The same url could just as easily be user readable, and something that I could tell me office-mate verbally from 10 feet away. Most people just expect bad URLs now and have given up trying to remember the name of the page they want to see. I used to love NBC.com because they would let me type things like nbc.com/parks to get to http://www.nbc.com/parks-and-recreation, but that is no longer true. Now everyone just assumes that they need to google something to find it, and they can't even imagine that apple.com/ipad would be the page they are looking for.
apple.com/ipad is a good URL because it describes the destination. so is nbc.com/parks. but there is a practical limitation to that sort of url scheme - you only get a couple hundred pages max before you exhaust your namespace. you couldn't use a URL like that for every single article a newspaper writes without an absurd number of collisions. so you have to start using unique IDs. and if you only use the ID, you lose the memorable/describable aspect.
Since when has verbal transmission been an important consideration for URLs?
Okay, I know that ranting content beats happy or deep-thought-out content, but we got into hand-waving territory a little early here and without, well, knowing what the hell we're talking about.
I use bit.ly, and gad, I hope I don't spam. There are a dozen good reasons. I just like knowing in real-time how many people are re-using the links I share online. Gives me some idea if anybody is paying attention. Over time, I can go back and look at all the links I've shared, from my own stuff to MSM material, and see what my friends liked and what they didn't. That's great feedback for me -- just like a "like" on Facebook, except it's entirely passive on the consumer's part.
I'm not saying there isn't a problem. The problem here is that everybody and their brother want as much data as possible from the user, so there's this cascading thing going on where you almost never click on a link that actually describes where you're going. Many times the redirect can be several deep, as the author points out.
So yes, there's a problem. But please don't jump from "there's a problem" to "Spam! Spam! It's all about spam!"
No, it's not. There can be a problem with something without there having to be an evil villain involved.
Unlike URL shorteners which could be in rare cases useful  I see not a single benefit of this.
 http://tinyurl.com/selfcontained-editable-datauri (yes, this one is a misuse, but whatewer)
2) Phishing protection: assuming such outgoing links are checked with Safe Browsing API or something similar (I doubt it), again, that's what my browser does by default. (Incidentally, sometimes I do not want my browser to do this either, so again I like to switch this off: things are a bit faster and free disk space bigger sometimes.)
It might seem nice that some page makes this effort too, but again, I don't see a big deal in it.
Here are some scenarios in which I like link shorteners:
1) Removal of the referrer (the anonymising redirect)
2) Redirects within a site when content moves, but the redirect service offers a permalink shortened URL. As only they can generate the URL you can trust that the destination is as safe as the source (the intra-site trusted redirect with vanity URLs)
3) Self-healing of the web, if a URL becomes broken the redirect service may be able to figure out or suggest a replacement, or offer a cached version of the destination or a link to the web archive (the self-healing redirect)
4) Protect users against malware and spam by cancelling a redirect if the URL is reported (the 'for the user' gateway redirect)
Not all redirects and shorteners are inherently bad. I suspect the author just dislikes the tracking side of things, but there's always http://unshort.me/
2 - Why would a site use some sort of middle layer just to ensure that links remain permanent? They could just redirect old URLs to new ones.
3 - I am aware that the owner can change the URL behind a shortened one so if they needed to they could fix "links" to their site. I have never heard of a service which claims to find out where broken redirects should now be pointing.
4 - I think they make attacks more likely. Most people's browsers will automatically follow the redirect and not give them a change to say no if they don't like the look of the URL. Yes, in theory, a user could try to report a dangerous link but I would be surprised if anyone is available to listen at these services.
Should really done by a browser maybe like an attribute on a link but fair enough.
> 2) Redirects within a site when content moves, but the redirect service offers a permalink shortened URL. As only they can generate the URL you can trust that the destination is as safe as the source (the intra-site trusted redirect with vanity URLs)
Just make the original url not move...
> 3) Self-healing of the web, if a URL becomes broken the redirect service may be able to figure out or suggest a replacement, or offer a cached version of the destination or a link to the web archive (the self-healing redirect)
Ideally just better one on the browser and is done in say like chrome. I doubt there's any that were manually updated.
> 4) Protect users against malware and spam by cancelling a redirect if the URL is reported (the 'for the user' gateway redirect)
This is done in browsers anyway. And even if when would this work? Presumably they are getting this through some trusted medium otherwise what's to prevent them just getting a bad url? And if they are why not just check before?
2) Wouldn't call it link shortener, as redirector and target are in same administrative domain.
3) I doubt the possibility of meaningful automated fixing of arbitrary links, beyond redirecting to web archive. Which is not always best option and can be done manually or by browser addon
4) Or redirect 0.1% of traffic to attack page. This functionality should be in trusted location (browser or proxy). Screening as opt-in, especially by one providing link is useless
2 is the only thing remotely useful.
#2 was the one I couldn't think of a great example for, but thought that maybe the BBC were doing this (I have no citable source for this hunch but recall a page discussing programme identifiers and moving all existing URLs to this new structure using redirects).
#3 I agree does not happen in real life. Which is a shame.
#4 Twitter claim to do this https://support.twitter.com//entries/109623 , and I believe Google are doing this.
Edit: Citable source for #3 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/legacy/radiolabs/2007/11/urls.sht... . The BBC use a URL shortener in addition to the equivalent of mod_rewrite to normalise all of their content behind permalink short URLs.
(but there's no reason to do shortening)
(The infinite loop in that example unfortunately seems to have broken, illustrating another downside to URL shorteners - they can go away rather quickly.)
Every URL shortener should follow redirect chain before shortening.
Another nit: j.mp and bit.ly are different domains for the same service. If you append a "+" to either URL you see how many times the destination has been shared, clicked, and by all shortened versions of the destination. So it's like both of those are the same link.
Final nit: The Internet was designed to survive nuclear war. The "X destroys the Web" trope is popular, but getting incredibly tired. That's not to say there aren't totally legitimate criticisms of URL shorteners - there are! - but their use clearly pre-dates Twitter and obviously has numerous legitimate use cases as lots of comments here attest to.
I also got a really strong gut feeling of "spam" being used as a "boo!" sign, for some reason.
Why link shorteners do this is a completely different question with completely different answers.
As for some sites having extremely long required URLs: Sometimes they are necessary, e.g. parametric searches, but many other times they could've been better designed to be either shorter or more informative. Whatever the form, I don't think link shorteners should be used to hide them, if there is enough space available to hold the full URL.
Even on sites with comprehensive analytic packages integrated, bit.ly (and services like it) will be used because the people doing the "social media" work an the people responsible for the performance of the website online are sitting in different places and not talking to each other.
The result is this division of statistical data for each party to beat each other with.
Edit: Oh, it needs some editing in the URL and done, cool.
It definitely won't remember company.com/section/potentially_a_subsestion/page?someParamters=mayyybe if I see it somewhere. But I might remember bit.ly/CompanyCampaign.
Some might say that it's the developers/company fault, they should have made the URLs more friendly/configurable. Yeah maybe, but it's often easier just to use a shortener, let's be realistic.
I also use them when I know I will need to open some link directly (i.e. by typing in URL). For example, I prefer bit.ly/myPresentation to logging into google drive, getting 2FA text, finding the presentation...
So yeah, while they are evil in some cases, they have a bunch of genuine use cases.
- short link that is easier to share/doesn't break in the process (when you send it via email, need to copy-paste on your mobile or just want a cleaner FB message
- tracking that will give the poster insight on the number of clicks and other performance indicators of the message
No one in their right mind would use 302 redirect, because you then loose things like Twitter share counts, or card implementation.
There is an odd case of someone using the shortener for marketing purposes (I do it for my product), but it usually will be a by-product of something deeper that offers value to the user. And, as many of those services are free (as your referred Pocket), it's a small price to pay for an otherwise great product IMO.
It's dead now, demonstrating another problem with URL shorteners.
If you use and host your own, you've got things covered for as long as you need.
PS: Can anyone see what's the point of this service?
So I shorten them sparingly, for simple layout reasons. But I don't track the clicks or anything. I might be in the minority here, tho.
Getting users to long URLs is a good thing if done directly.
I tend not to trust it.