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5 June 2012

URL shortening service bitly rolls out redesign and rides storm

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

Web service bitly (more widely known for shortening long URLs) refreshed its brand, changed its domain and added more functionality which took many by surprise. To the dismay of many users, bitly’s changes has made its services complicated to use as reported by Venture Beat with users slamming the brand on its blog and Twitter. Amongst one of main complaints is surprisingly, it’s actually harder to create short URLs, the crux of what bitly is all about – in fact its own domain name is now longer, changing from to

Joint screenshot of image of bitly old and new service

There was a time when short URL was seen as spam with social networks such as Facebook banning their use in posts. Although this still may be the case, search engine Google and microblogging service Twitter now have short URL services and (links shared on Twitter are automatically shortened can cannot be opted out of) respectively. Once the saviour of messy and credibly long URLs they’ve become more commonplace, even though web governance and standards on the whole is better and use of website address or domains is more sensible. Short URLs are undoubtedly the backbone of many communications across the web, with many brands and businesses electing to use them for marketing collateral, press releases and posts across digital environments.


Generally, people are resistant towards change with social networks such as Facebook feeling the digital wrath when it rolls out design, user interface (UI) and functionality changes, even worse when it is thrust upon them without any warning. Bitly made a classic mistake seemingly in not only seeking feedback from users before the change, it was an immediate shock with a page refresh or login, so Bitly users were treated to an ice cold water splash on the face brand refresh.


An update on the changes were featured on the blog and in addition to leaving feedback on that post, its users also flocked to Twitter feed share exactly what they thought of the change and it’s not pretty. With 25 billion saved hyperlinks since 2008 from bitly alone, it’s safe to say short URLs play a massive role across the web - people just find navigating the web with them easier. With strong competition from many other URL shortening services and Twitter having its own, Bitly has its work cut out in winning back favour. In the meantime, its response and customer service has to be commended.


Unfortunately, what has been overlooked is the additional functionality bitly has brought to users (editing saved URLs, the mobile app, social sharing) as it waits for the negativity to disperse and for it (hopefully) to fix user gripes. It’s a shame that crowd sourcing didn’t feature in the new developments. But like it or not its now out there, so at least it can be actioned, that’s if the Bitly folk want to. For now Bitly has responded with feedback on its blog to help its users. Social media news site Mashable has also gone to town on picking through the service on getting the best from new bitly.


So hang in there, as a rollback is unlikely. The question is if the bitly folk take it on the chin and adapt to user feedback. With the need to keep investors happy and source more funding, it may have to be a sooner than later affair.


A version of this article first appeared on Technorati.

Categories: Technology, Social media, News

Tags: bitly,, URL shortener, URL shortening, Google, Twitter

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