Bit.ly Is The New Digg (And The New Delicious)

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.

[zenphoto src=”bitly.png”]

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.

  1. 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).  
  2. 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.  

Responses to “Bit.ly Is The New Digg (And The New Delicious)”

  1. But doesn’t it reward links put up by popular users, not popular links?

    • Joen says:

      Perhaps, but how is that different from Digg?

      And since Bit.ly actually stores destination URLs, I would imagine they could “group” all identical links together and do some fancy magic that rewarded the first poster of said link, rather than the one that popularized it. If they want to do that.

    • Joen: [..] do some fancy magic that rewarded the first poster of said link, rather than the one that popularized it. If they want to do that.

      True, but some twitter-celebrity would still have to tweet that link for it to be popular. If I tweet about your site and Obama about Michael’s BinBon site, then Michael is going to get all the love.

      Digg has that extra step of voting up links that were deemed 4wes0me!11!! instead of just getting the most clicks.

  2. Nik says:

    Really informative article. Convinced me to signup as never really liked delicious’ interface.

  3. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Can’t really comment on the link archiving service since I haven’t used it, but regarding URL shortening twitter really have to step up to the plate here. I have only been on twitter for about a week, and already I am incredibly annoyed at all the bit.ly, ls.gd, etc. URLs floating around. Before I click a link I would like to know where I will be taken (especially since a URL isn’t just a URL anymore), and a shortened URL gives me no hints in that direction. I’m sure they are already debating this at twitter HQ, but it just seems natural since links is one of the fundamental pieces of information people want to share (along with pictures of cats).

    • Joen says:

      It’s a really good point, I agree completely there should be some kind of of transparency as to what people link to.

      I believe, however, they’re actually working on it. I remember reading something on Daring Fireball about some “rel” attribute showing the real link…

    • Jonas Rabbe says:

      Joen: I believe, however, they’re actually working on it. I remember reading something on Daring Fireball about some “rel” attribute showing the real link…

      That’s what I thought too, but it just seems like such a hassle that you have to go to a separate service just to insert a link. That said, they already do some kind of shortening if you insert a longish link into a message (haven’t experimented with it, so I cannot say how that works).

    • Joen says:

      Jonas Rabbe:

      That’s what I thought too, but it just seems like such a hassle that you have to go to a separate service just to insert a link. That said, they already do some kind of shortening if you insert a longish link into a message (haven’t experimented with it, so I cannot say how that works).

      Yeah, Twitter tinyurls links if you paste them. That only works if there’s the initial room for the long link, tho, so it’s quite useless.

      Yeah it’s a hassle, and I really don’t think the URL shortening aspect is the killer app part of bitly. It’s the stats and the archiving that’s the killer app, and that would work even if the link was something like “bit.ly/->noscope.com”.

  4. […] Unlike a lot of the other URL shortening sites, bit.ly offers some cool additional features if you sign up for an account. It will store all of your recent links and give you a compact URL, but it can also track how many people have clicked on it, and it offers an API and RSS feed for your recent links. While it doesn’t allow you to enter tags or any additional information about the links like del.icio.us does (leading to some ugly and/or useless titles for the links), and it doesn’t have a full social network built-in as of yet, it can auto-post your links to Twitter and also back up the page you are linking to in case it gets overloaded with traffic or eventually goes away. Some people have suggested that it might have the potential to become the new Digg. […]