Thursday, October 7, 2010

URL shortener problem

If you use Twitter, you're probably familiar with the URL shortener service. Even if you don't, you're probably familiar with TinyURL,, or other URL shortener services. They seem convenient. No more having to type or remember long URLs, just create a short one. No problem.

Until went off the air. The domain was siezed by the Libyan registrar that controls the .ly hierarchy, because content at the locations pointed to by violated Libyan morality laws.

This is why URL shorteners are a bad idea. They create URLs that are under the control of a third party and which can be disrupted at any time. Since there's no direct mention of where the shortened URL points, once disruption happens it's impossible to locate the original destination. If you use the actual full URL, disruption can only occur if the actual site referred to is taken off-line.

Note also that this is why you should make your own copy of content if you really care about having it available. If you merely link to it, it's vulnerable to the destination taking it down or just changing what it says. Only when you control the copy can you insure that it doesn't change or become unavailable in the future. This may annoy copyright holders, however I feel that if I'm writing commentary on what someone said then making a copy to insure I can prove they did in fact say what I claim they said falls under fair use, and making a complete copy is neccesary to show that I'm not merely cherry-picking and taking bits out of context to misrepresent what was actually said and so also falls under fair use.