There has been lots of talk recently about the URL shortening service tr.im. First it was supposed to simply be shutdown until the end of the year, then – because of the overwhelming feedback – it was reactivated again and now the plan is according to Eric Woodward, to make tr.im community-owned.
So what does that mean?
According to Eric the following:
- the tr.im domain name will be donated to the community so no hijacking of the domain will be possible (imagine your shortened links suddenly pointing to sites you never intended to point to)
- the source code will be made open-source under an MIT license
- tr.im will offer all link-map data associated with tr.im URLs to anyone that wants it in real-time. This can enable innovation!
- Eric Woodward will himself pay for any shortfalls in operating expenses outside the parent company Nambu. Donations should be the way to keep it running though (in a transparent way)
- tr.im will begin publishing all statistics and information related to it usage. Its operating cash flow, redirects, URL creation counts — everything — so that the community can have confidence it is on solid footing.
- tr.im will add the capability for anyone to use their own domain name on tr.im’s platform, also free of charge, on a donation basis.
So that not only means that links will keep working but also that we get the source code and the data. This is quite interesting move here!
Still, the question is whether URL shorteners are really something we need and if it’s not possible to create them in a more distributed manner. Even if Eric intends to keep the service running his capability to do so might still be vanishing at some point. Somebody else might take over but it might still be a problem.
The question is really if we should continue to make url shorteners such an important thing of the internet (mainly due to Twitter and friends of course) or if we can find a way to distribute the resolving and storage of link data in a meaningful and unhijackable way. tr.im’s move might in fact be one step in the second direction by providing data and thus enabling backup strategies.