URL shorteners are all the rage.  With the rise of social media like Facebook and Twitter, there is a greater need than ever before for users to find a way to make their links shorter so as to leave more room for actual text in their updates.  And now even Google has their own shortener, called goo.gl.  In testing for the last several months, it's now been unleashed upon the world and is ready for use.  It even has it's own standalone website.

The URL-shortener market is already kind of saturated.  Google themselves makes reference to this fact in their blog post:

"There are many shorteners out there with great features, so some people may wonder whether the world really needs yet another. As we said late last year, we built goo.gl with a focus on quality. With goo.gl, every time you shorten a URL, you know it will work, it will work fast, and it will keep working. You also know that when you click a goo.gl shortened URL, you're protected against malware, phishing and spam using the same industry-leading technology we use in search and other products."

With so much competition, you would think that Google would try and boost their chances for market domination by offering a service with a little something special.  And for the most part, they have:

1. Uptime.  Google seems very, very proud of their URL shortener's uptime.  They claim they've had nearly 100% uptime since launch--not that this actually tells us anything about their uptime, since "near 100%" doesn't actually mean any specific number.  But a service like this needs uptime--in fact, some of the complaints I've heard about other similar services are related to this very issue.  So if Google can demonstrate and prove that goo.gl has better uptime, that alone might drive users in their direction.

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2. Analytics.  This is my favorite part.  From the Goo.gl site:  "All goo.gl URLs and click analytics are public and can be shared by anyone."  And if you have a Google account, you'll be able to see data on all the goo.gl links you've ever created and shared, right there in one place.  In order to test it, I had to create some shortened URLs:

  • Read Grant's very popular article on Twitter Marketing:  http://goo.gl/jQpw
  • Or Christopher's insightful piece on what counts as a video view and what doesn't:  http://goo.gl/uIbL
  • Or Mark's recent article on a new kind of video ad format: http://goo.gl/0y02

And now, as long as I am logged into the same Google account, the goo.gl page looks like this for me:

It's got all three of the URL's I've shortened using goo.gl, along with data on when those links were created and how many clicks they have--I previewed this post and clicked on my shortened links just so it wouldn't show all zeros.

If you click on "Details" next to any of the link data, you'll see even more information about that specific shortened link, like this:

Sweet!  And also all of you now know that I'm a Windows user in the United States that is currently using a Firefox browser.

And if you're interested in another person's shortened link, you can view that data too, just by typing ".info" after the shortened URL, even if you don't have a Google account.  Awesome.

3. Speed.  Google thinks goo.gl is going to be faster than any other similar service, claiming to have doubled its speed in just the nine months it has existed.

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4. Security. One of the many dangers of using some URL shorteners is the possibility of malware or viruses.  Because you can't see the root link you're clicking on, you're never really sure if it's safe.  Google's claiming that the same technology that keeps spam out of your Gmail inbox (which is amazing, by the way) will keep the malware out of the goo.gl system.  Now, many shortening services have taken measures to protect users against malicious links as well, and they deserve credit for that.  But having seen the true power of Google to detect and stop spam from hitting my Gmail inbox--seriously, I don't think I've ever gotten a single spam message in more than three years of using Gmail--something tells me they'll be better at safeguarding against the inherent dangers of shortened URLs than a lot of their competitors.

So, there you have it in a nutshell.  Are you going to try out goo.gl?  Are you already too loyal to your current shortening service?  I am not an avid Twitter user, though I've found plenty of other reasons to use shortened URLs.  But I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of the power-users of shortening services on their first reactions to this new offering from Google.