How permanent are the shorts?

by Raffi Krikorian

I've been watching more and more people use href="">make a shorter link -- a
web-form service that you cut-and-paste a long link into and then
returns a 38 character URL that is easy to e-mail around. On the back
end, the Pants Collective's service presumably records the URL in a
database and then returns another URL that can be used to key to the
longer one. While this service seems great for e-mailing URLs around
(even then, I'm not sure -- most e-mail clients can handle long URLs
these days), I hesistate embedding these shorter URLs into published
web pages.

Think of this like giving your friend somebody to get more directions
to your friend's house. What happens when your friend arrives at the
first location, and there are no more instructions there? What does
he do? On the web this is of a bigger problem -- which link will web
crawlers index? Does this level of indirection break programs (or
more likely, does it exacerbate stupid web programs that don't handle
meta refresh tags)?

What I would love to see is this service aquired by href="">Google or the href="">Internet Archive. What they could
provide is a system with more value -- this key could key into a
cached copy or an updated URL when it changes, or it could key not
only to the page but its entire history. aAkey for the sake of
shortening to the URL (and not even shortening it to something that
people can remember) seems mostly pointless, but a key that provides
more value might be interesting.


2003-07-22 10:42:40
Check out
From the PURL home page: "A PURL is a Persistent Uniform Resource Locator. Functionally, a PURL is a URL. However, instead of pointing directly to the location of an Internet resource, a PURL points to an intermediate resolution service... this is a standard HTTP redirect." has been around forever (well, several years at least--forever in "Internet time") and I can't ever recall seeing a long purl URL. Might be more of what you're looking for, at least in terms of stability of the underlying organization.

2003-07-22 12:16:23
I don't trust 'em
For me, I dislike the shortened URLs mostly because I can't trust them. I have no way of knowing, pre-click, if I'm going to get redirected to something that I'd really not rather get redirected to...
2003-07-22 15:56:21
I don't trust 'em
Some of the services have a intermediate page that lets you confirm where you're going.
2003-07-23 01:25:19
URNs for persistence
A persistent URL is a bit of an oxymoron. I always thought persistent URIs were called URNs? Unfortunately URNs are not popular and even when people use URIs for unique identification purposes, they use URLs that begin with http causing 404 error messages all over the world. When will the madness stop! The community needs to come together and build a URN registry for peristent references. The ISBN URN is a good example of how this can be useful (e.g. urn:isbn:0-596-00292-0). You can make URNs for webpages in the same way. The only problem with URNs is that they need tools to understand them and maintenance. You can monitor the URL for a 404 or a redirect to determine its latest status.

I have seen some blogs with ISSNs. It would be interesting to have a tool that turns this urn:issn:1496-7596:744 to Getting ISSNs for blogs is something you can't count on so something like might be better. Atom/Necho/Pie/whatever it's called has pages on ID issues (

Naming and Addressing: URIs, URLs, ...
URN Syntax
OASIS Extensible Resource Identifier TC

Just some thoughts,

2003-07-23 11:49:12
everyone i know uses tinyurl