After having seen more and more URLs shortened using the service, just a few days ago I joined Bit.ly myself. Now I see why the service was able to raise 2M in funding and how they have the potential to outperform both Digg and Delicious.
Bit.ly is, at its core, a URL shortening service. You paste a URL into Bit.ly, press “shorten”, and you get a short and Twitter-140-character-friendly URL which redirects to your pasted URL1. The kicker is that if you register with Bit.ly, you get to archive all your shortened URLs publicly or privately. That, and stats; whenever someone clicks your shortened URL, it shows up in your Bit.ly backend. Sounds simple? Possibly, but simplicity is not a simple thing.
Offering up this optional user account as a sidedish to your URL shortener opens a world of possibilities of which Bit.ly has just scratched the surface:
- Since Bit.ly allows you to archive your URLs, it’s a bookmark service (that makes it the new Delicious).
- Because the destination URL is stored as well as the number of outbound clicks, Bit.ly could easily build a recommendation service based on stats across its user base.
- Because each shortened URL is unique, it could potentially “give credit” to the first user to popularize the link.
- When you have a huge and growing archive of user-generated, stat-tracked links, you have a content goldmine.
That’s where it competes with Digg. As a sidenote, competing with Digg these days is far easier than it was a month ago. After Digg launched their “DiggBar” (a frame that sits comfortably on the top of all Digg-outbound links), they’ve effectively propelled themselves back in time to 1990–back when frames were popular. By doing so, Digg has buried themselves in a mound of manure so vast and impressive, that climbing out of this valley of guano is a Sisyphean task2. Which means, if your popular content site ever had just a subatomic chance of success, Digg is no longer the four-toed-statue everyone is talking about.
Bit.ly has this potential. If you chalk it up, Digg is about discovering good stories and making them popular. The voting system which summons frontpage-stories from the depths of the Upcoming-cesspool is really just a necessary evil. If you really think about it, clicking a link is rewarding it. Since Bit.ly already has this covered with their stats, it means all Bit.ly has to do if they want to compete with Digg is to create their own frontpage highlighting stories that are popular on Bit.ly. Registered users can then decide if they want to compete in a game called first! (or, alternatively, plz click my link, I’ll click yours!).
I would love to see Bit.ly succeed. If nothing else, then because I’d like to see what happens when a successful company is hosted on a Lybian domain name.
- For shortening, it’s not even the “best” service out there, as sites such as Is.gd or Tinyarro.ws offer far shorter URLs. Examples: http://is.gd/sjhZ (17 chars), www.➡.ws/셚 (10 chars). [↩]
- John Gruber has the best coverage of the farce, including why the DiggBar sucks; suffice to say very few people dig what Digg has done. [↩]