Eric Woodward, creator of the short URL service Tr.im, painted his product into a corner when he announced first, that he was going to take it offline, and then a few days later that he wasn't. Nobody wants to trust their Web links to a capricious business that could go offline again, and take working links and traffic with it.
On August 17, Woodward put a fresh coat on the prior week's drama with a new gambit: He said he was giving the service to the community. In the bitter post announcing this plan, he continued to claim that due to the fact that Twitter made Bit.ly the default URL shortener for the service, a product like Tr.im has no real chance for success. Related, he says, is the recent announcement of the 301works archive for short URLs, which he sees as a craven publicity stunt to boost Bit.ly, since the same people behind it are also running 301works.
Woodward says that the Internet needs an open link-shortening service, because the traffic data short URLs generates is too valuable to entrust to a single company. "You can't get the aggregate data on what's being shared in real time by everyone," he told me. "Twitter wants to become a real-time search engine, so the data Bit.ly is capturing is very valuable."
(Bit.ly data is currently wide open, at least on an individual URL basis. Simply append "+" to a Bit.ly link to get traffic stats on it. Woodward wants to see a "fire hose" of short URL data, however.)
A Twitter keiretsu? Woodward does have reason to be envious and even suspicious of the Bit.ly-Twitter relationship, although it's difficult to draw the connection all the way to malfeasance on the part of the two companies. And it's hard to believe that his strident posturing will win him much support outside of a small group of the most zealous open-source boosters.
Several powerful companies in the Twitter ecosystem are inter-related. Bit.ly's CEO is John Borthwick, and Borthwick is also CEO of Betaworks. Betaworks helps build companies in the social-messaging space. It incubated Summize, the Twitter search engine Twitter acquired last year, and through that deal Betaworks remains connected to Twitter. Betaworks has also worked with Tweetdeck -- which also uses Bit.ly as the default link shortener. The company has several other Twitter (and Facebook) projects running right now. Suffice it to say that if you're in Betaworks' network, you've got great access to Twitter. If you're competing with a Betaworks portfolio company to get Twitter's attention, you've got a tough road ahead.
Betaworks is one of the drivers of the 301works short URL data project, and it's the relationship between Bit.ly and 301works that led Woodward to shun the project, at least for now. "There's nothing wrong with it in theory, but it doesn't solve the link rot problem," Woodward said. He added, "Why would I give them the publicity?" … Read more