When there are only 140 characters, a link can be a major impediment to microblogging aspirations. URL shorteners can free up space, making services like bit.ly and ow.ly indispensable to some. Media companies are even launching personalized shorteners — including The New York Times and NPR. Two recent studies, however, investigate the speed and reliability of these services and find that they can result in tradeoffs for that extra blogging space.
The new reports conclude that users are dissatisfied when loading times for Web pages are greater than two seconds. That's not a lot of time to work with. Of the services looked at in the WatchMouse study, only Facebook's fb.me added over two seconds to load times. But the news for others was not especially good, either, with at least half-a-second added to page loading times.
Reliability is also an issue with shortened links. When just one service goes down it severs the links to hundreds or thousands of sites. Users are left without access to sites the service is supposed to be pointing them to.
Popular websites ow.ly, bit.ly, and su.pr score well with both WatchMouse and another study by Pingdom. WatchMouse gives its highest grade to goo.gl and twt.tl. Both were available 100 percent of the time.
Pingdom analyzed data from Jul. 18, 2009 to Aug. 16, 2009 for Bit.ly, TinyURL, Ow.ly, Is.gd, Su.pr, Snipurl, Cli.gs, Tr.im and Twurl. WatchMouse's study took place between between Feb. 14, 2010 and Mar. 16, 2010. Theirs sampled a different group of URL shorteners from the earlier Pingdom report: binged.it, bit.ly, fb.me, goo.gl, is.gd, ow.ly, snurl.com, su.pr, tom.ch (bitly.pro), tinyurl.com, tr.im, twt.tl, twurl.cc and youtu.be.