URL shortener Trim takes a tumble

It's not yet clear what caused the temporary outage on Wednesday, but a link to a popular airline fare promotion may have caused server overload.

One of the myriad URL-shortening services out there, found at Tr.im, suffered an outage for some time Wednesday, rendering many links unable to redirect.

The service--which is owned by a start-up called the Nambu Network--believes hackers are to blame. "From this end it appeared we suffered a denial of service attack, and we took appropriate action to get the website back to full service," a Trim representative said to CNET News in an e-mail.

There's another, less likely possible culprit: Airline JetBlue hit one million Twitter followers on Wednesday, and announced a one day-only commemorative deal that would shave 20 percent off the cost of any flights booked through a promotional link. It used Trim as the URL shortener for the link in question, and acknowledged in its "JetBlue Cheeps" Twitter-deals account that heavy volume from the sale may have unexpectedly caused the outage.

Whether or not it was the JetBlue promotion that crippled Trim, there's a bigger-picture problem here: URL shorteners like TinyURL, Bitly, Owly, Isgd, and related offerings from Digg and StumbleUpon, are a huge deal when we've all grown accustomed to fitting stuff into 140-character fields. Some, like Bitly (which Twitter uses as its automatic link shortener and which has been talked up as a possible acquisition for the microblogging company) and Trim, offer some tracking data and analytics surrounding the links plugged into their systems.

But when one crashes, so do all the links associated with it. Or what happens if a URL shortener goes out of business altogether? There would be a whole lot of lost, broken links out there. Some very small URLs could have a very big impact on the organization of the Web.

This post was updated at 1:13 p.m. PT.

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