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Twitter launches automatic link shortening

New service will automatically abbreviate URLS of any length to 19 characters when users compose tweets in the Tweet box.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil

Twitter has begun automatically shortening URLs pasted into tweets by its users, the microblogging site announced today.

When users compose a tweet and paste a link of any length into the Tweet box, Twitter will automatically abbreviate the link to 19 characters when users hit send. In testing for almost exactly a year, the service--called t.co--is being rolled out incrementally and will wrap and abbreviate all links shared on the site in the same way other URL-shortening services, such as Bitly, do.

Twitter said user security played a major role in implementing the new service.

"Since we show a shortened version of the original link, people will know which site the link points to," Twitter said in a statement. "This service also increases security. If users click links that are reported as malicious, we direct them to a page that warns them."

Twitter said that while it is putting the squeeze on links, it has no plans to squeeze out third-party link shorteners; those abbreviated links will continue to work on Twitter.

The link is shortened when the URL entered exceeds 13 characters, and a count appears under the box to let users know how close they are to exceeding their 140-character limit with shortened URL's character factored in.

Updated at 9 p.m. to correct that users know how many characters remain in new system.