Metafilter-only URL shortening with Mefi.us August 10, 2009 8:36 AM   Subscribe

A URL shortening service is closing shop, and though Twitter is seen as a terrible thing by some MeFites, plenty here use it. Echoing an overlooked comment signalnine, could the new static domain be set up as a MetaFilter-only link shortener?

As it is, links can be easily shortened by lopping off the title text. For example,

http://www.metafilter.com/84010/They-said-it-would-happen

becomes

http://www.metafilter.com/84010/

If the service (or people copying links by hand) recognize it, the link could be shortened to

www.metafilter.com/84010

or

metafilter.com/84010

But we could take this further if mefi.us was used:

mefi.us/84010

This could also work with the sub-sites: ask.metafilter becomes a.mefi.us, projects is p.mefi.us, music to mu.mefi.us, metatalk is mt.mefi.us, etc.
posted by filthy light thief to Feature Requests at 8:36 AM (113 comments total)

Let's say we built this. How would we let people know it exists and they should use these shorter URLs for our own site? Add a share link on every post? Put a tiny twitter logo next to every permalink?

Also, I think instead the URLs should be mefi.us/a123 for ask instead of a.mefi.us/123 since the subdomain requires the use of one more character (a dot).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:41 AM on August 10, 2009


Pros:
* Can be pronounced "Meefeeus" and chanted, a`la "Ru-fi-oh...Ru-fi-oh"

Cons:
* Is URL-shortening scheme
posted by odinsdream at 8:44 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


To clarify: you're asking about only links to posts on the MeFi sites rather than using a URL shortening for links in comments and posts?

butter will always taste better than URL shortening
posted by Burhanistan at 8:46 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Add a share link on every post? Put a tiny twitter logo next to every permalink?
No, please. We don't need more clutter.
posted by tellurian at 8:46 AM on August 10, 2009


How would we let people know it exists and they should use these shorter URLs for our own site? (mathowie)

Well, for starters, put it in the FAQ.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:47 AM on August 10, 2009


Let's say we built this. How would we let people know it exists and they should use these shorter URLs for our own site? Add a share link on every post? Put a tiny twitter logo next to every permalink?

I think this depends on how much people want to promote the site. Maybe this information is stuck in the FAQ, and those who read it or happen across it used realize what it is. Or maybe there's some little icon and the text "Shortcut" (or something like that) to the RSS feed under the post title. That's an unobtrusive bit of info, always present but only there if you want it and know how to use it.

Also, I think instead the URLs should be mefi.us/a123 for ask instead of a.mefi.us/123 since the subdomain requires the use of one more character (a dot).

Ah, good idea.

odinsdream anything we can chant is a good thing. And your "con" is only a bad thing if you don't like how it's implemented. Unless Metafilter loses the MeFi.us domain, I'd imagine this would last as long as metafilter.com does.

To clarify: you're asking about only links to posts on the MeFi sites rather than using a URL shortening for links in comments and posts?

Exactly.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2009


No, please. We don't need more clutter.

Yeah, that's my point. How can we notify people of this without cluttering things up? It doesn't seem worth the clutter for what little use and gain it offers in return.

for starters, put it in the FAQ

That's pretty far and out of the way for almost every member of the site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:52 AM on August 10, 2009


How would we let people know it exists and they should use these shorter URLs for our own site?

rel="shorturl"
posted by cillit bang at 9:04 AM on August 10, 2009


Overlooked Comment Signalnine would be a great name for a band. An arty, noodly three-piece with unintelligible lyrics and unexpected guitar chops. A band with an intense fanbase but who never quite break through, getting slightly dismissive 8.2 reviews from Pitchfork, never going viral on the music blogs, yet never slowing down, playing tiny venue after tiny venue to small, rapturous crowds, putting out album after album until their label goes bankrupt and they decide to call it quits. Ten years later a lot of up and coming bands start name-dropping Overlooked Comment Signalnine and somebody releases a retrospective and belated half-fame finds them as they are all far along into new careers and family-raising. They reunite, record a well-received album and go on a short tour and play to slightly bigger, yet still just as rapturous crowds. The drummer hooks up with a much younger fan and ends up leaving her husband for the fan. The lead guitarist, who's good friends with the husband, breaks off all contact with the drummer, dooming any future reunions. The singer releases an acoustic solo album that gets across-the-board rave reviews even though it's not too original and the lyrics would have benefited from being less intelligible. Twenty years after being released, their albums go gold.
posted by Kattullus at 9:08 AM on August 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


It doesn't seem like much clutter to me. Just a "shorten" link right next to "subcribe" at the top of the thread.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:18 AM on August 10, 2009


Sounds like a useful idea.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:20 AM on August 10, 2009


Man, fuck short URLs. I'd take spam over mystery meat any day.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:23 AM on August 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I like roll truck roll's idea for placement, though to me it would make more sense if the link read "Short URL."

It isn't much space, and I, for one, would use it often, since practically every link I use a URL shortener for leads back to Mefi. It would be cool to have short links that are clearly from Metafilter.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:24 AM on August 10, 2009


We could definitely set this up and it's fairly simple to implement, but I think we should consider whether it's good to set up alternate versions of MetaFilter URLs at all. The classic essay by TBL called cool URIs don't change has some good food for thought:
Keeping URIs so that they will still be around in 2, 20 or 200 or even 2000 years is clearly not as simple as it sounds. However, all over the Web, webmasters are making decisions which will make it really difficult for themselves in the future. Often, this is because they are using tools whose task is seen as to present the best site in the moment, and no one has evaluated what will happen to the links when things change. The message here is, however, that many, many things can change and your URIs can and should stay the same. They only can if you think about how you design them.
I think a good question to ask: why do people need shorter URLs than the ones we already provide? 9 out 10 answers will include Twitter. Should we make changes to accommodate a single unrelated social network? Do we want to support those URLs for the next decade?

I agree with just about everything in Joshua Schacter's essay on url shorteners. I especially agree with the fact that URL shortening obfuscates the web. You can't tell what you're going to get when you click. The domain metafilter.com is a known entity that's been around for over ten years. What is mefi.us? People who are already members of the community might know, but to people outside on Twitter it's just another mystery link. And I think reliance on shortened URLs is something either Twitter or its users should work on changing.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:30 AM on August 10, 2009 [17 favorites]


Well, for starters, put it in the FAQ.

Wait - this site has an FAQ?
posted by jabberjaw at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2009


True, the FAQ is out of the way. Looking at the text bar, it seems like another icon and a word or two could fit without being overwhelming. For example, this page would read

Metafilter-only URL shortening with Mefi.us
August 10, 2009 8:36 AM [R] Subscribe [L] Short link

It is additional clutter, but it could follow the pattern of the existing RSS feature. And in the end, it's no more mysterious than www.metafilter.com/84010. At least some people would recognize it's a link to a metafilter story/post, and not a random NSFW image or attempt at rickrolling (unless it's a link back to a rickroll post.

I think a good question to ask: why do people need shorter URLs than the ones we already provide?

1 out of 10: facebook

If nothing else, this post lead to another mythical band. Thanks, Kattullus.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on August 10, 2009


I thought we all agreed that URL shorteners are an evil conspiracy that helps lazy people to ruin the internet.

But maybe I was wrong.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:33 AM on August 10, 2009


You're thinking of twitter itself, Afroblanco.
posted by gman at 9:36 AM on August 10, 2009


Well, I just don't get it, even for Twitter. Sure, Twitter is SMS, but if you're sharing a URL, you probably have access to the internet, right? So why are you texting the link? Is it so you'll have to pay more, or just for the hassle?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:37 AM on August 10, 2009


Note that http://www.metafilter.com/84010/ works while http://www.metafilter.com/84010 404s. A bit random.
posted by smackfu at 9:38 AM on August 10, 2009


This is a bad idea and y'all are bad people for even discussing it.
posted by marxchivist at 9:39 AM on August 10, 2009


Good point smackfu, which shows we're not quite living up to our ideals. In a perfect world that first link would redirect to the canonical URL as well. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have URL ideals.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:40 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


And in the end, it's no more mysterious than www.metafilter.com/84010.

Well, to someone who has heard the name "metafilter" but isn't sufficiently familiar with site culture to know what "mefi" is, it's decidedly more mysterious.

I totally get the Ooh, Shiny aspects of this—it's something we totally could accomplish, and, hey, we've got a short url already and everything—but I don't really like the idea, for a lot of the reasons I think that url shorteners in general are problematic. Call them a necessary evil, maybe, but I'm not so hot on us getting into the Evil Biz just because everyone else is.

pb hits basically all my main points. I think this is generally speaking a situation where the feature idea is sufficiently neat-seeming that it's easy to get distracted from the "why?" question initially.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:41 AM on August 10, 2009


But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have URL ideals.

Although I've definitely been in fights with mod_rewrite where I said "dammit, this is good enough".
posted by smackfu at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(And I feel for all those companies that at one point decided hostname / username was a good scheme, and have had to live with it ever since. Flickr did this, and though they now redirect everyone to flickr.com/photos/username, the photos is not needed. Wonder how many folder names are even left for them to add stuff?)
posted by smackfu at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2009


Fucking christ hell why the fuck doesn't twitter make their own url shortener so the only time the links go down is the tragic day that twitter is also down jesus christ hell.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:01 AM on August 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


So why are you texting the link? Is it so you'll have to pay more, or just for the hassle?

Twitter is limited to 140 characters from whatever source you send the messages, not only via cell phone.

My idea was to provide a stable system for those who currently link to Metafilter through shortened URLs. That clarification made, I'll stop pushing the idea.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:02 AM on August 10, 2009


Twitter is limited to 140 characters from whatever source you send the messages, not only via cell phone.

Yeah, I know. The point: If you're on the internet already, why are you posting a squished link on Twitter instead of the real thing someplace else?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2009


Lots of reasons: Twitter. Facebook. Sending URLs through plain text emails that are likely to chop URLs in half. Telling people URLs verbally, or in a paper letter.

But the important thing is that this wouldn't be URL shortening, in the way that tinyurl and bit.ly are. It's just another way of expressing the same URL. So it opens up numerous new possibilities that URL shorteners aren't right for. Want to write the URL for a thread on the whiteboard for your students to write down? Use the short version, and it's more likely to make it to the computer unaffected by human error. Want to cite it in a footnote? Use the short version, and it's easier for your reader to type it in. Any workflow that involves a human typing in a URL can be improved by having an easier URL.

I don't think URL shorteners will last forever. They'll be replaced by more elegant, sensical ways of expressing URLs.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:09 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Serious question -- why are URL shorteners useful/important, at least in this context? Mefi URLs don't seem overly long. I can see their usefulness for a Google Maps link that would otherwise be hundreds of characters...
posted by Pantengliopoli at 10:12 AM on August 10, 2009


Shortlinks are EVIL. Let me repeat that. EVIL. You don't know what you're going to get when you click because the REAL url is obscured. Hello phishing, scamming, and hijacking!

If I had a vote, I would vote a million times for NO short urls EVER. anywhere.

period.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:20 AM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Mefi URLs don't seem overly long.

Really? They have the whole post title in them by default.
posted by smackfu at 10:27 AM on August 10, 2009


You don't know what you're going to get when you click because the REAL url is obscured. Hello phishing, scamming, and hijacking!

And yeah, that's exactly my point. This is not a URL shortener, because you can look at it and immediately know exactly what it's referring to.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:30 AM on August 10, 2009


Who cares how long they are? I fail to see any need for a link shortener. Why would we want this?
posted by caddis at 10:34 AM on August 10, 2009


Mefi URLs don't seem overly long.

Really? They have the whole post title in them by default.


So you chop it off, and voila: 37 characters
posted by Sys Rq at 10:35 AM on August 10, 2009


Do people use URL shortening for anything that is intended to be around for any length of time? Because, um, they shouldn't. And if it *isn't* going to be around for a while (i.e. it's some offhand comment on a twitter like site) there's no reason not to use any of the current services.
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on August 10, 2009


Put a tiny twitter logo next to every permalink?

Oh christing fuck kill me now.
posted by dersins at 10:37 AM on August 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


...immediately know exactly what it's referring to.

You will immediately know once you figure out what mefi.us is because it's not as widely known as metafilter.com.

Mefi URLs don't seem overly long.

Just ran some numbers and found that the average MetaFilter URL with link stub (everything after the link ID) is 58 characters. Ask MetaFilter is quite a bit higher at an average 67 characters.

We are currently supporting URLs that do not include the link stub or www, so that brings the average down to 27 at MeFi and 31 at Ask. (Those links sans trailing slash are now working, btw.) The proposed mefi.us URLs would bring the average down to 13-14 characters for both sites.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:42 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Myself, I don't even click on links that are from shortening services, no matter where they are from. I'm sure I have annoyed at least one of my friends who insists on emailing me shortened links. I lie to him and tell him it didn't work, could I please have the actual URL. He's learned by now to just send me the real link.

I don't know if I'd use a shorter MeFi link or not. At the very least, the work of interpolation would be done by the site I want to visit, and not by a third party. That would be a start.

Mostly I try to send the full-length URLs because I think people like seeing words in the URLs that provide at least minimal description. That's one of the things I loathe about YouTube links, even with the elegant pop-up player here on the Blue. If we could devise some way to mouseover a YT link here and have a tooltips-type thingy appear with the video title... THAT would rock.
posted by hippybear at 10:44 AM on August 10, 2009


i hate url shorteners...
posted by empath at 10:45 AM on August 10, 2009


I guess I'm not interacting with the site on any media that suffers from a shortage of screen real estate, like a smartphone. Especially when you can shorten the URL on the screen with a title/name...
posted by Pantengliopoli at 10:47 AM on August 10, 2009


What current problem would this change solve?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:54 AM on August 10, 2009


The shortening scheme in the OP is about the sanest approach to it, and if Metafilter LLC was custodian of its own shortened URL, the problems of statefulness and control would presumably also be accounted for.

And URL could be provided as a "Get short URL" courtesy link at the end of posts, similar to the "Get permalink" marker included in many blogs' posts.

And cutting a 27 character URL to 13 characters is a big help when you've only got 140 characters available in a message -- that's an extra word or two.

With all those advantages, I kinda' take pb and mathowie's side on this. Especially it'd be a new batch of work for pb that probably exceeds whatever benefits the site would see from providing it. Twitter messages are supposed to be timely, and the archiveability of bit.ly URLs is not a big deal.
posted by ardgedee at 10:55 AM on August 10, 2009


The only reason this pony is here is because of Twitter. To change this site to fix a flaw in their site seems incredibly wasteful.

Why is there a 140 character limit in Twitter? For SMS users, right? What good is a URL going to do for someone only able to view SMS updates? If they had web access to view the site, then they could have web access to view the tweet.

If a SMS user wanted to submit a long url (and therefore had to save space) they'd still need to get online to use a URL shortener, so why the limit?

Get Twitter to implement an in-site solution that shrinks URLs, or get them to implement a href tag and ignore url's from the length (and strip the urls from people wanting SMS updates), and hopefully the whole web can hopefully move away from this bad, bad idea.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:56 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


If we could devise some way to mouseover a YT link here and have a tooltips-type thingy appear with the video title... THAT would rock.

I would pay up to $3.50 for a firefox extension that did this.
posted by odinsdream at 10:58 AM on August 10, 2009


pb: Those links sans trailing slash are now working, btw

Yay! I type MeFi URLs quite often but sometimes forget the slash.
posted by Kattullus at 11:03 AM on August 10, 2009


odinsdream, free! YouTube Title Adder.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:06 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


What current problem would this change solve?

That people using twitter who currently need to use a 3rd party URL shortener to link to MeFi wouldn't need to. They would use the MeFi-sanctioned shortened version, which would be guaranteed to stay around as long as MeFi. The same could not be said for the 3rd party one, like tr.im.

Now if you don't use Twitter or link to MeFi, this is not a problem, but that's what the point is.
posted by smackfu at 11:06 AM on August 10, 2009


mefi.us: more proof this site is USA-centric.

I'm kidding
posted by blue_beetle at 11:09 AM on August 10, 2009


> I would pay up to $3.50 for a firefox extension that did this.

You can set tinyurl to preview link URLs for free. But if you want to slip me a buck or two, I won't stop you.
posted by ardgedee at 11:13 AM on August 10, 2009


The BIG difference between this and a usual url shortener: it ONLY redirects to posts on MetaFilter. Most of the people who already click on shorturls will figure that out very quickly. Url shorteners ARE evil, but often a necessary evil, and this would be making this evil thing far more benign. I know I'd be less scared of a mefi.us than a is.gd or bit.ly. MetaFilter can be a leader, a pioneer in LESS evil url shortening, influencing other sites that don't already have their own abbreviated addresses to step away from the tinyurls. (yeah, looking at you, Twitter)
posted by wendell at 11:14 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


That people using twitter who currently need to use a 3rd party URL shortener to link to MeFi wouldn't need to.

How big of a problem is this? Is it so large that it something really needs to be done on Mefi's end?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 AM on August 10, 2009


You can set tinyurl to preview link URLs for free. But if you want to slip me a buck or two, I won't stop you.

Sorry, I was specifically talking about regular YouTube links from which you cannot determine anything about the linked video.
posted by odinsdream at 11:25 AM on August 10, 2009


wendell, why bother will less evil, when you can choose evil-free™?

Do we really need a solution that takes us from:

http://metatalk.metafilter.com/18072
to:
http://mefi.us/M18072
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:28 AM on August 10, 2009


odinsdream, free! YouTube Title Adder.

That doesn't do Safari users much good. :)
posted by hippybear at 11:44 AM on August 10, 2009


> Why is there a 140 character limit in Twitter? For SMS users, right? What good is a URL going to do for someone only able to view SMS updates?

There are phones that can display both SMS messages and websites. They work great. Try one.
posted by ardgedee at 11:51 AM on August 10, 2009


While the novelty factor of having an in-house way to produce canonical shortened URLs for pages on MetaFilter is pretty high, the actual utility factor is less so.

On the other hand, people on the Twitter aren't seeing full metafilter.com URLs right now, so it would enhance clarity at least a little.
posted by potch at 11:55 AM on August 10, 2009


Those links sans trailing slash are now working, btw.

It's not working on Metatalk yet.

Didn't we just go over "Don't tell your friends about Metafilter?"
Friend says "Wow, [yourname], you are always sending me such excellent stuff, where do you find it?" "On the Internet," you say, with a wise and knowing look.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:00 PM on August 10, 2009


ardgedee: There are phones that can display both SMS messages and websites. They work great. Try one.

I thought I addressed that when I said "What good is a URL going to do for someone only able to view SMS updates? If they had web access to view the site, then they could have web access to view the tweet."

I meant that if they had both SMS and Web on their phone, they could just use the web element to view twitter and get around the 140 character phone-enforced limit.

Those users with only SMS on their phone don't need to see the links at all, since they wouldn't be able to visit them. When they're able to have access to the web, they could access the tweet then, link included.
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:03 PM on August 10, 2009


pb - (Those links sans trailing slash are now working, btw.)

Yeah, that's some hot shit. Thanks!
posted by carsonb at 12:09 PM on August 10, 2009


> Those users with only SMS on their phone don't need to see the links at all, since they wouldn't be able to visit them.

Re-engineering Twitter to accommodate full URLs is as likely to happen as successfully educating all web users about the evils of URL shortening. It is more usable to more people in its current state than it would be by accommodating full-length URLs at the expense of SMS user support. I don't see this as a non-problem, but more as a reasonably balanced solution of satisfying conflicting needs.
posted by ardgedee at 12:12 PM on August 10, 2009


"Wait - this site has an FAQ?"

This is the most FAQ.
posted by klangklangston at 12:26 PM on August 10, 2009


Right next to the Contact link that no one seems to know about.
posted by smackfu at 12:47 PM on August 10, 2009


On the other hand, people on the Twitter aren't seeing full metafilter.com URLs right now, so it would enhance clarity at least a little.

Something I learned today from this and the other thread is that all URLs in Twitter messages get automatically shortened using their preferred third-party URL-shortener. So, even if you did end up using mefi.us shortener, if you dropped it into a Twitter message you'd have a maddening:

mefi.us -> bit.ly -> metafilter.com
posted by odinsdream at 1:07 PM on August 10, 2009


Well, not all URLs are shortened. Here's a test tweet. I can't find any info in the help docs about when they auto-shorten and when they don't. I assume it's related to the length of the URL you're posting.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:34 PM on August 10, 2009


odinsdream, the wikipedia page on URL shorteners notes that the Twitter network recently replaced TinyURL with Bit.ly as its default shortener of links longer than 26 characters.[citation needed]

Not being a twitter user, I can't test this out, but it looks like that was just over TinyURL's link length (TinyURL generates 25 character links), so maybe it's true. http://mefi.us/mt18072 = 22 characters
posted by filthy light thief at 1:35 PM on August 10, 2009


> I meant that if they had both SMS and Web on their phone, they could just use the web element to view twitter and get around the 140 character phone-enforced limit.

Twitter has a 140 character limit even if you use the web interface. There's no "going around" it.
posted by cj_ at 1:41 PM on August 10, 2009


Wait - this site has an FAQ?

Well, it did, before it was shortened. Now it just has a FQ.
posted by Eideteker at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's right. No one's asking, they're just questioning.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:55 PM on August 10, 2009


'Myself, I don't even click on links that are from shortening services, no matter where they are from."

Same here. Not gonna get rickrolled, nope.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:09 PM on August 10, 2009


I would really like this pony, but I do have to agree with pb that it's incredibly important that this be maintainable. Honestly though, if we're going from http://XX.metafilter.com/NNNNN to http://mefi.us/XNNNNN, how hard will that be to engineer in a maintainable way? I don't think the good reasons for short URLs are going to disappear, and the ONLY one of the arguments for why short URLs are bad that seems to apply here is the "cool URIs don't change" reason. It's under Mefi control, it's useful in many contexts (twitter is a distraction here), and if y'all are willing and able to engineer this pony in a sustainable way, I'll do a little dance and buy you an extra beer when you next come to Carrboro, NC.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 3:01 PM on August 10, 2009


Same here. Not gonna get rickrolled, nope.

Yeah, I'm tunakrolling now. Give me a URL shortener and I'll probably use it for evil.
posted by quin at 3:17 PM on August 10, 2009


Wow, the 10th anniversary of Tunak Tunak Tun (for me, at least).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:21 PM on August 10, 2009


Honestly though, if we're going from http://XX.metafilter.com/NNNNN to http://mefi.us/XNNNNN, how hard will that be to engineer in a maintainable way?

Implementation and maintenance aren't big challenges here; it's really more a question of why it would be worth doing, what the long term benefit to the site and the userbase would be. What I'm seeing so far as an answer is "very little".
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:11 PM on August 10, 2009


What the long term benefit to the site and the userbase would be. What I'm seeing so far as an answer is "very little".

I think people have already mentioned plenty of non-twitter usecases, but in case a recap is needed, here are the non-twitter contexts where I would use these short URLs:
  • IM
  • IRC
  • email
  • paper (personal journal, post-it note to friend...)
Obviously this would be of great benefit to those of us who link to mefi from twitter, since it would keep the 3rd party (currently bit.ly) out of the loop. I have to admit that for me personally this is a powerful enough reason, but I recognize that it's not a strong argument for this community.

*hugs everyone*
posted by tarheelcoxn at 4:46 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


But think of all the time (not to mention ink and paper) we could save when referring to Metafilter threads in written correspondence!
posted by contraption at 4:50 PM on August 10, 2009


Yeah, I've thought about all those bulletpoints, but none of them is a really big issue -- all the IM clients I've used recently seem to accommodate autolinking of longish urls just fine even if it's a bit of a pile of vomit to look at, modern email clients mostly do it right as well, most IRC clients do it well (though differing term configurations can break that depending on your situation, if you're using a text client), etc.

Not to say it wouldn't be handy in a subset of those cases, but a subset of a subset of how links get moved around isn't the kind of problem domain that seems in my opinion to justify this kind of undertaking.

I say this huggingly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:02 PM on August 10, 2009


tl;dr

short links are handy, in more places than twitter. they will be used. the haters can hate all day, but people will still use them.

the choice now is simple:
- give control of the short urls over to a shortening service
- maintain some control over them by running a local service, and using rel="shorturl" or rev="canonical" to encourage its use.

i'd rather do what is possible to control the links and make them as innocuous as possible.
posted by frijole at 5:59 PM on August 10, 2009


I've just been poking at rev=canonical and have discovered for myself that Flickr has its own short urls (probably not news to most of you). See http://flic.kr/p/6yHtop, for example. I really think that this will become more (not less!) useful, despite improvements in things like IM and IRC clients. Perhaps ask the flickr people why they bothered?

*hugs contraption* I hope you understand that I really do find paper useful, and making fun of that is a bit silly. Your framing is also a straw man. My real argument is that (a) short URLs are genuinely useful, and therefore (b) mefi should run its own rather than leave it to people like bit.ly who ruin the web.

On preview: what frijole just said.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 6:06 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


contraption: But think of all the time (not to mention ink and paper) we could save when referring to Metafilter threads in written correspondence!

I have done that. And, perhaps more oddly, drawn a picture of the front page in a letter to a friend.
posted by Kattullus at 6:43 PM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Of course I was being silly about URLs in written correspondence as a primary reason for people to want this feature, but the whole thing does seem pretty unnecessary. URL-shortening services came about to shorten long URLs, like those generated by Amazon, Flickr and Google. These can consist of hundreds of characters of non-human-readable junk, and shortening them seems like a reasonable thing to want to do. As others have pointed out, Metafilter has short URLS already, just the domain and a decimal index. Metatalk is the worst case and its URLs are only 29 characters (metatalk.metafilter.com/#####), with the proposed shortened version being only 13 characters smaller (mt.mefi.us/#####). Is it really worth the confusion of a parallel system to save a maximum of 13 characters?
posted by contraption at 7:34 PM on August 10, 2009


http://bit.ly/FzOuB
posted by cashman at 7:41 PM on August 10, 2009


This seems like a lot of cruft for something that saves very little and is very well developed in easy to use third party applications for those who need it.

Several people mentioned facebook as a driver for this; where don't long urls work in facebook? I routinely post big ass google map links in facebook no problem.
posted by Mitheral at 8:14 PM on August 10, 2009


I hate (with a burning passion) short urls for the mysterymeat aspect.

Never mind that short url sites are generally blocked by work proxies, so I couldn't even read them if I wanted to. Which is annoying when it's supposed to be something that would be useful for, you know, WORK.

I agree that places like Amazon.com have a really crappy page naming scheme which leads to long annoying URLs. But part of me really wishes that I could hack bit.ly and have all of the links redirect to this instead. Because I'm too much of a prude to make them all redirect to goatse.
posted by that girl at 8:29 PM on August 10, 2009


That girl. Yes. Exactly. Tiny urls are just another way for control freaks to say "I don't trust you enough to be able to decide whether you want to visit my wonderful link- I will obscure it for you. Prove your love for me!"

I hate them with the fire of a few hundred firey suns...
posted by gjc at 9:30 PM on August 10, 2009


If we hugeurlify it will take 22 tweets to send one link.
http://www.hugeurl.com/?ZmZiMzdlYzI1M2YzZTA1ZmY1ZTI3OTU4MGMzZjkyY2MmMTEmVm0wd2Qy
UXlWa2hWV0doVVYwZG9jRlZ0TVZOWFZsbDNXa1JTVjFac2JETlhhMk0xVjBaS2MySkVUbGhoTVhCUVZt
eFZlRll5VGtsalJtaG9UV3N3ZUZadGNFdFRNVTVJVm10a1dHSkdjSEJXTUZwSFRURmFjVkZ0UmxSTmF6RT
FWVEowVjFaWFNrbFJiR2hYWWxob00xWldXbUZrUlRGWlkwZDRVMkpIZHpGV2EyUXdZVEZrU0ZOclpHc
FRSVXBZVkZWa1UyUnNjRmRYYlVacVlrWmFlVmRyV25kV01ERkZVbFJDVjAxdVVuWlZha1pYWkVaT2NtS
kdTbWxXUjNoWFZtMHdlR0l4U2tkaVNFWlRZbGhTV1ZWcVJrdFRWbFowWlVoa1YwMUVSa1pXYkdoclZ
qSkZlVlZZWkZkaGExcFlXa1ZhVDJOc2NFZGhSMnhUVFcxb2IxWXhaREJaVjFGNFUxaG9hbEpXV2xSWmJH
aFRWMFpTVjFkdFJteFdiVko1VmpKNFQyRkdXbk5qU0d4WFRWWktSRlpxUVhoa1ZsWjBZVVp3YkdFeG
NEWldiWEJIVkRKU1YxWnVVbWhTYXpWd1ZtcEtiMkl4V1hoYVJFSmFWakZHTkZVeGFHOWhiRXBYVjJ4U
1dtSkhhRlJXTUZwaFpFZE9ObEp0ZUZOaVJuQmFWMVJPZDFZeFduSk5WVlpUWWtkU1lWUlZXbUZrYkZ
weFVtdDBhazFyTlVsWlZWcDNZVWRGZWxGck1WZFdNMEpJVmtSR2ExZEdVbkphUm1ocFZqTm9WVm
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xTXlUWGxVYTFwaFVqSm9WRlJYTlc5WFZscDBUVVJHVWsxWFVraFdNalZUVkd4a1NGVnNXbFZXYkZwW
VZHeGFZV1JGTlZaUFZtUnBWbGhDU1ZkVVFtRmpNV1J6V2tWc1VtSnVRbUZVVmxwM1ZrWmFjVkp0ZE
d0U2EzQXdXbFZhYTJGWFJYZGpSV3hYWWxoQ1RGcFhjekZXTVdSellVWlNhRTFZUW5oV1YzaHJWVEZrUj
FWc2FFOVdlbXh4V1d0YWQyVkdWbGRoUnpsb1RWWndlVll5TlhkV2JGbDZZVVJPVjJGcldreFdha3BQVW
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JFelFqVldSM2hoVkRKR1YxcEZhR2hTYlhoWVdWZDBkbVF4V25GVGExcHNWbXR3ZVZkcldtOWhWMFky
Vm01a1YxWXpVbWhhUkVaelZqRmtkVlJzYUdoTk1VcDJWbGN4TkdNd01IaGFTRXBYWWxWYWNGVnRk
SGROUmxwWVkwVmtWMkY2UmpGWlZXaExWMnhhV0ZWclpHRldNMmhJV1hwS1MxSXhjRWhoUjJo
T1UwVktNbFp0TVRCVk1VbDVVbGhvWVZKWFVsWlpiWFIzVjFac2NsWnJkRmhTYlhoNlYydGpOVll4V25
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mxkNGIySXhXWGhhUldob1VqQmFWbFp1Y0Zka2JGbDNWMjVLYkZKdFVubFhhMXB2VmpBeFIyTkZhR
mRTUlZwb1dWUktSMVl4Y0VaaFIyaFRZbGhvV1ZaR1dtRmtNV1JIWWtaV1UyRXpRbk5XYlhSM1pWWnN
WbGRzVG1oV2EzQXhWVmMxYjFZeFdrWlRibHBXVmtWYVlWcFZXbGRqTWtaSVkwWk9hVlpyY0ZsV2JH
TjRUa2ROZDA1V1pGWmlSMUpZV1ZkMFMxZEdVbGRYYm1Sc1ZtMTBNMVpYZEd0WFIwWTJVbXRzVjFZ
elVuWldha1poVW0xT1JtVkdXazVXYmtKSlZtcEdhMVF4U1hoalJXUlZZWHBXVDFsc1pHOVhiRnB4VTJwU1
YwMVhlRmhaYTFwclYwWmtTR0ZHYUZwaVdHaG9WbXBHYzJNeGNFaFBWbVJUWWxob05sWXlkR3BPV
mxsNFYyNVNWbUpIYUZoV2FrNU9UVlphV0UxVmRGZE5WMUo2V1ZWYWExUnRSbk5YYXpGWFlsaEN
URlY2Um1Gak1YQkpWRzFvVTJKclNuZFdWekF4VVRKSmVGZHNWbE5pVlZwWVdXeGFZVmRXV2xoa1J6
bG9UVlZzTlZsVmFFTldiVXBIVTJ4b1ZrMVdjR2hXYkZwUFZsWktjMU5yTlZkaWEwWXpWbXhrTkdJeVNYa
I say we at least consider it an option.
posted by vapidave at 10:22 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find it an interesting insight into the code of the site that the hugeurl is cut off after twelve and half lines in recent activity. I never realized the limit included the html.
posted by Kattullus at 10:31 PM on August 10, 2009


mefi.us: more proof this site is USA-centric.

I'm kidding
posted by blue_beetle at 7:09 PM on August 10 [+] [!]


I'm not.
posted by awfurby at 10:37 PM on August 10, 2009


Hey, I said that links without the trailing slash didn't work in Metatalk, & I'm happy to note that they work now.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:11 PM on August 10, 2009


mefi.me: personalized site
refry.me: plate of beans
posted by lukemeister at 12:11 AM on August 11, 2009


I hate (with a burning passion) short urls for the mysterymeat aspect.

Never mind that short url sites are generally blocked by work proxies, so I couldn't even read them if I wanted to. Which is annoying when it's supposed to be something that would be useful for, you know, WORK.


Along with many other folks, you're missing one of the central points of running your own short urls: there is no mystery meat.

Let's look at Flickr's regular and short URLs:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/frijole/3807258122/ - this full URL indicates you're going to see a picture, on flickr, uploaded by me.
http://flic.kr/p/6Nrccq - this short URL indicates you're going to see a picture, on flickr. chances are, its immediate context will tell you its from me.

What do you get from http://metatalk.metafilter.com/##### that you don't get from http://mt.mefi.us/##### ?

I understand the frothing hatred directed at general-purpose shortening sites, that almost always do obfuscate the destination (that's why I try to always use a descriptive, custom short URL), but let's be rational here.
posted by frijole at 3:57 AM on August 11, 2009


Okay, you are entirely correct, frijole, that website-specific ones aren't nearly as awful in the least.

I just felt the need to vent.

Having to run your own short-url service does, however, seem to be a sort of "UR DOIN IT RONG" type of thing. If you have a short-url service, why aren't those short urls the real urls to begin with?
posted by that girl at 4:17 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


why aren't those short urls the real urls to begin with?
GOOD point,
posted by tellurian at 5:34 AM on August 11, 2009


Because brevity != clarity.
posted by smackfu at 7:17 AM on August 11, 2009


why aren't those short urls the real urls to begin with?

In general, because all the meaningful short URLs are taken, and only with the recent surge of URL shorteners for Twitter and whatnot have the other top-level domains been recognized more broadly. Historically, the web was .com, .net and .org (ignoring .gov and .mil, because those aren't something anyone could get). Trying to tell someone that your website was site.tk was hard, if they weren't familiar with the options of the internet. "Where does the dot com go?"

Now that other TLDs are recognized more widely, most major sites are now associated with their pronounceable websites and their directory structures. Some new sites could try making everything super-short, but that would be to focus on making links to their site twitter-friendly, which is a limited market.

In short: too much momentum.

Directly associated short URLs, like Flickr.com and flic.kr, ensure stability (and control) while embracing the current interest in and use of shortened URLs.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on August 11, 2009


that girl writes "If you have a short-url service, why aren't those short urls the real urls to begin with?"

One other concern, and the reason why Matt changed out Metafilter URLS to include post title (they didn't always) is search engines apparently look at the words in the URL as part of their ranking metric. Considering how jokey post titles are I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes but there it is.

And the URL gives some minor indication to humans of what a link contains.
posted by Mitheral at 9:54 AM on August 11, 2009


Historically, the web was .com, .net and .org (ignoring .gov and .mil, because those aren't something anyone could get).

I wonder where that .edu address I had for all those years came from.
posted by hippybear at 10:47 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Erm, yes. Add .edu into the ranks of domains you can't register with ease.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:54 AM on August 11, 2009


What if we make mefi.us do the minified URLs, but instead of auto-redirecting, they all land on a page berating the use of URL shorteners, then provide a link to proceed to the intended site? Everybody wins!
posted by potch at 11:53 AM on August 11, 2009


Your URL must be shorter than this line to ride the Twitter.
|--------10--------20--------30--------40--------50--------60--------70--------80--------90--------100-------110-------120-------130-----140
posted by blue_beetle at 12:08 PM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


for starters, put it in the FAQ

That's pretty far and out of the way for almost every member of the site.


Consider it a reward for dedication to learning about the site.

Other than that, not only are URLs shortened by URL-shortening services blocked at many workplaces (and do you want to end up coming to the attention of the Web-Nazis any more than necessary?), but I am the same as many others in that I never click on shortened links, because I don't trust any of you.
posted by dg at 6:39 PM on August 11, 2009


Completely off topic. Seriously, like not even close.
The ≠ (does not equal (like in the smackfu post above) (my spelling this out will make sense in just one second, trust me)) sign sometimes displays for me on the metafilters as "!=". It displays correctly on the rest of the internets. Is this like how Zalgo displays on Macs as a bunch of boxes?
posted by vapidave at 2:22 AM on August 12, 2009


For me too vapidave. Some Zalgo (and I've seen an awful lot on here) shows okay, but the majority doesn't. Test ≠ (yours is fine for me btw).
posted by tellurian at 3:29 AM on August 12, 2009


I just type !=, as in computer languages descended from C. I don't remember how to produce a ≠ in HTML (oh, there it is, ≠).

Too bad about http://me.fi/.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:46 AM on August 12, 2009


I don't think there's a mystery here. I typed exclamation sign plus equals sign. So I think your computer is fine. You just ran into a programmer.
posted by smackfu at 5:48 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I typed exclamation sign plus equals sign.
Mystery solved.
posted by tellurian at 6:15 AM on August 12, 2009


fantabulous timewaster - (oh, there it is, ≠), doesn't work for me on viewing (but does on preview).
posted by tellurian at 6:22 AM on August 12, 2009


The ≠ (does not equal (like in the smackfu post above) (my spelling this out will make sense in just one second, trust me)) sign sometimes displays for me on the metafilters as "!=". It displays correctly on the rest of the internets.

I want to be clear that I'm not making fun here when I say that I found this observation delightful. Yes, a lot of us have programming experience, and programming language generally stick to simple-ass ASCII for syntax, which means != is in and ≠ is out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:26 AM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fun ancient trivia. My first job out of college, I programmed in PL/I on an IBM mainframe. Those systems use EBCDIC instead of ASCII, and EBCDIC has the proper negation symbol, ¬. So the PL/I language uses ¬= for not equals. ASCII doesn't even have that negation symbol.
posted by smackfu at 8:30 AM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


(P.S. Now that symbol may not show up properly, since it's probably Unicode.)
posted by smackfu at 8:32 AM on August 12, 2009


I have Arial Unicode MS installed, and the proper negation symbol, ¬, shows up just fine, as does ≠, on a WinXP SP3 system.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 AM on August 12, 2009


cortex: I want to be clear that I'm not making fun here when I say that I found this observation delightful. Yes, a lot of us have programming experience, and programming language generally stick to simple-ass ASCII for syntax, which means != is in and ≠ is out."

On being made fun of:
When the Service of Fun goes galloping by sounding the call my Dignity saddles up and rides forthwith and will, in its service, happily drag itself through an inferno of mockery by its smoldering fingernails wearing the most genuine grin ever seen. Sir and all, I would consider it the greatest of honors if you would kindly never forbear to make fun of me again.
Also "Delightful"? Christ, now I need a shower of something.

smackfu: "I don't think there's a mystery here. I typed exclamation sign plus equals sign. So I think your computer is fine. You just ran into a programmer."
Not a problem, I've run into programmers before and they barely scuff the bumper. Besides, knowing now it is intentional I think I like "!=" better than ≠. ≠ looks frail and apologetic and as though it's begging your pardon, suitable for kindling perhaps. != looks like it might just not mind a little scuffle.
posted by vapidave at 9:45 PM on August 12, 2009


Confusingly, my version of Firefox has a "View Selection Source" which expands HTML entities. So if I view the source for the whole page I can see who actually typed &ne; and who knows how to coax their computer to produce the byte sequence 0xc2ac. But if I view selection source all I see is ≠, ≠, ¬, ¬. <>
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 3:19 AM on August 13, 2009


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