Make A Shorter Link is a great site and a useful service but it does have its problems. They’re not editable, hard to remember and have annoying interstitials by default. PURLs don’t have any of these problems, and when combined with MeRS, an even better Make A Shorter Link could easily be built.

The obvious problem is that once you become reliant on them to keep your link persistant. PURLs have this problem too, and I don’t see any way around it. It could be somewhat explained away, however, if they let you edit your links, so that when one site went down you could fix the link to point to the new site. (PURLs let you do this.)

Another problem is that their 8-character alphanumeric strings are a real pain to remember. First, it’s silly to start at 8 characters since I doubt that they already have used up the 78364164096 possibilities that 7 characters would have given them. They could have just as well started with two characters or three. But second, they would have been much better off using something easier for humans, like MeRS. They might even let you pick the string, like with PURLs.

But one of the worst problems is how the links are not actual HTTP redirects, but meta-refreshes. This gives users an annoying wait and interstitial advertisement for Make A Shorter Link (as if the URL wasn’t enough) and makes these links useless or at least annoying for a wide variety of purposes. I sent in a short note and received an extremely hostile response saying that they wanted “the user of the link” to see where they were going before they got there. Thankfully, however, they have created a preferences page that lets you turn the annoying interstitials off (although it’s somewhat burried in their site and they’re still on by default).

posted May 21, 2002 12:34 PM (Technology) #


Crypto History
The Lawyers Strike Back
Point-Headed Academics vs. Pointy-Haired Bosses
Problems with MakeAShorterLink
New Hacks
Copyright Terrorism
Emerging Technology 2002 Photos
“Essential Blogging” for Review

Aaron Swartz (