Have you ever vested time and energy into something only to have someone else let you down and abandon, sell or give up on it? Not long ago I was a big advocate of drop.io I had used it extensively, became an affiliate, created youtube videos and much more. You might have read recently that drop.io was acquired by Facebook and will no longer be providing service effective December 15th of December 2010. This left me high and dry with a few clients, scrambling to fill the holes. Perhaps this is the same reason why many top new media advocates recommend that you control your “home base” wherever that might be. Note this candid advice from @Shonali Burke a friend of mine:
IMHO no matter how many changes Facebook makes, many of which can be great promotional tools for people as well as businesses, nothing can compare to having your own base on the web. That is the one place you “own,” which you don’t on Twitter, Facebook, Amplify, etc. As the old song goes, “they can’t take that away from me”…!
Home of bit.ly namespace declared unsafe
Shortly after that I was reading how .ly was owned by Libya and they are arbitrarily disconnecting some domains without so much as a bit of notice. This is a problem for me because nearly all of my current shortened urls are stored on bit.ly using the main bit.ly domain. If for whatever reason or whimsical decisions Libya decides to kill bit.ly I would be in a world of hurt with hundreds of links orphaned. What happens when a domain name falls off the internet? Anything trying to access that website will probably end up on the now familiar Opendns page and not the website they had planned to access:
Joe’s own URL Shortener is born – msol.us
I decided to try to setup my own url shortener as a hedge against the possibility of orphaning a bunch of links. While doing research I came across a nice article on Lifehacker about how to create your own URL shortening service. Being a regular reader of the site, I knew that it was probably a quality solution so I tried it out. The shortest domain that I own is msol.us, one digit more than bit.ly not bad. Especially not bad considering 1 and 2 digit sub urls will be available (i.e. http://msol.us/ms goes to my company’s website, versus http://bit.ly/17CUAH on bit.ly saving 3 digits overall). As another example I also created a very simple shortened link for this article, it will forever be http://msol.us/1 which sure beats http://bit.ly/fwuIfe (the bit.ly equivalent).
DIY Difficulty level – Moderate
I would say creating your own url shortener site is not for the faint of heart. I would recommend it to people who are fairly tech savvy and have some under the hood understanding of mysql databases. While this article is not a how to, the one thing I would suggest to add to the Lifehacker article about YOURLS is that you should put the files in the root of the domain you want to use. I started using /urls sub directory and that added 5 digits to the shortened links. How often do you wish you had 5 more characters while posting to Twitter? I know I do quite often!
Adding my first url
I decided to make my company’s website the first url because I could use /ms and have a very tight/short url to use, here is a screenshot of the created link:
Not unlike bit.ly I had the option to share and since I was authoring this post, I customized and tweeted it out:
A James Brown Moment?
I am not dancing like James Brown singing “I feel good” but I am feeling quite comfortable that in addition to controlling my company website, dns and blog I also now control my own url shortener. Blame the IT control freak in me, but I would definitely recommend you consider bringing your url shortening in house. You will not have to worry about all your link assets being compromised.
A Word of Caution
It’s great to have your own url shortener but realize that you do need to backup and maintain it. There is a mysql database as well as some files that will need to be backed up periodically to protect this asset. If you fail to protect the asset you could end up orphaning all the links you created with it! The most important thing to do is to regularly backup the mysql database, here is an article that explains mysql backup methods. Another area of concern is if you do not setup the users and passwords your shortening service could be publicly accessed. Alternatively if you do not enable SSL your password could easily be compromised by a Firesheep user while accessing it at your local Starbucks.
Make this post better
I realize that this is a very important topic, what else would you also like to see on this topic? Here are some ideas I had, please vote for one or suggest your own via comments.
- A screencast of the full process start to finish.
- A tour of the YOURLS interface, capabilities.
- More on the “home base” concept, controlling your own/company presence online.
- Explain the technical challenges for SSL, Passwords and Backups more thoroughly.
- Something else? Leave a comment. Thank you!