Link or URL shortening services are nothing new--TinyURL, for example, has been around since January 2002, when site creator Kevin Gilbertson wanted to link directly to newsgroup postings with really long addresses. Indeed, that's the true impetus behind these services; taking really long and unwieldy Web links (to an Amazon or eBay item, for example), and shrinking them down to a more reasonable size. Simply copy and paste the offending URL into the field, hit enter, and voila, you'll get a much shorter link. These shorter links can then be shared via IM or e-mail without the URL breaking, and they are also very useful with micropublishing tools such as Twitter, where character count is at a premium. Most of these services also redirect the links straight to the original address. There are literally hundreds of these link shortening services out there, but we've decided to break it down to 10 that we like the most. Here they are in no particular order:
TinyURL: Arguably the most well-known of the services listed here, TinyURL was probably also one of the first. One of TinyURL's most appealing features is that the short URLs it creates will never ever expire. It offers a browser bookmark button that'll provide a TinyURL of your current page, and there's a preview feature as well.
SnipURL: Also known as Snurl and Snipr, SnipURL is a URL shortening service with a social twist. You can sign up for an account which lets you edit URLs, subscribe to the RSS feeds of your latest Snips, password protect them, and snip multiple URLs at once. It also has an open API for developers. Twihrl, a multiaccount desktop client for Twitter, uses SnipURL for its long URLs, for example. Another bonus is that you can choose your own "nickname" for a link. For example, http://snipurl.com/cnetcrave will redirect to our Crave blog. Like TinyURL, the SnipURLs will never expire, plus there's also a help forum for support.
Shorl: For a simpler approach, Shorl is a decent alternative. It has a very clean interface without a lot of ads, plus you can sign up for an account to retrieve the statistics of the shortened links.
Rurl: Rurl is a URL shortening service ideal for mobile use, since the page is very phone-friendly, and the URL itself is really short (about 19 characters long). The short URL is also good for Twitter, because of its character count limit. Like SnipURL, Rurl also has a developer API.
Metamark: Metamark also prides itself on providing really short URLs (about 20 characters long), but like SnipURL, Metamark lets you add an optional nickname to a link. There's also a "secret" option to add a secret word after the URL if you don't want people to guess the link. You can sign up for an account if you wish to retrieve the statistics associated with your link. Unlike the above services though, the links from Metamark do expire after five years, so take note of that.
Notlong: Notlong kicks it up a notch by not only shortening the links, but it also lets you pick a subdomain name. For example, I just created http://webware.notlong.com a second ago. Another great thing about Notlong is that the moment you create a Notlong URL, it presents you with a password with which to check the statistics of the URL, no registration required. However, you'll have to be creative to pick a subdomain that hasn't been chosen already.
Tweetl: With the popularity of Twitter, a service like Tweetl was bound to come along. Its slogan is "Little Links Built for Twitter" and the links are indeed sublimely short (about 17 characters long), which is good for fitting within Twitter's 140 character count limit. You can get stats of any Tweetl link without signing up just by entering the site ID after s.tweetl.com (Like s.tweetl.com/[id]). You can also add a tag to each Tweetl link by adding a question mark and whatever you want at the end of a Tweetl link, such as this: http://t-l.cc/[id]?insert-tag-here.
URLTea: URLTea has a dead simple user interface--simply paste in your link into the field, hit enter, and the shortened link will immediately be copied to your clipboard. Similar to Tweetl, you can add tags after the URLTea link with a question mark, such as this: http://www.urltea.com/l?insert-tag. We also like the gingham background; it's a nice touch.
MooURL: MooURL is quite possibly the cutest link shortening site ever, with an adorable cow as its mascot. Like URLTea, a shortened link will be immediately copied to your clipboard. Sure it doesn't have a lot of statistics-tracking like the others, but it's just so cute.
ICanHaz: Capitalizing on the Lolcat trend is the folks over at ICanHaz.com. Its slogan is "I can haz short urlz now? kthx", which is typical of Lolcat speak. Like SnipURL and MetaMark, you can select a nickname to be added after the URL. For example, http://icanhaz.com/webware directs to Webware. The downside is that you have to enter in your e-mail address if you want to edit the URL in the future. Also, unlike SnipURL and MetaMark, the nickname isn't optional--you have to enter a nickname regardless of whether you want to, and your chosen name might already be taken. However, the best thing about this service is arguably the Lolcat speak aspect of it, for those who are into the Lolcat meme.
If you have any further sites you'd like to recommend, please feel free to leave a comment below.