Stop using shortened URLs in tweets

Twitter doesn’t want you to, and it’s changing to make you do what it wants.

I am, of course, talking about third-party shorteners like and, not Twitter’s own service. Twitter really likes Not only does it use it to automatically shorten long URLs like, as of August 15 it’s been using to reshorten small URLs like

I wrote about this a few weeks ago in the context of changes I was making to Dr. Twoot. Now I think it’s time for most of us to just give up our favorite third-party shorteners and let Twitter do it. Why? Two reasons:

  1. The carrot: If you do things the Twitter way, the Twitter web site and official client apps won’t show an ugly and inscrutable URL, they’ll show a reasonably nice looking URL that points to the original site. Other apps can do the same—and many are—by using Tweet Entities.
  2. The stick: Twitter’s going to shorten your URL whether you like it or not. Only URLs that are shorter than 20 characters will escape the reshortening. That’s a pretty strict limit; of the shorteners in common use, only slips in under the wire.

Update 8/31/11
The stick just got bigger. Twitter announced this afternoon that all URLs, regardless of length, will get the treatment as of October 10. So won’t be immune for long.

Here’s a tweet in which I pasted the full URL and let Twitter shorten it for me:

Adapting to Tweet Entities and links:…

9:27 AM Mon Aug 8, 2011

The ellipsis doesn’t allow you to see the whole URL, but you at least can tell that it points to this site. And if you hover over the link, you’ll see the full URL in the status bar.

Compare that to this tweet, in which David Heinemeier Hansson included a shortened link.

Rails 3.1.0 is out w/ asset pipeline, HTTP streaming, jQuery default, and a trillion other cool new things:

10:18 PM Tue Aug 30, 2011

This gives you no sense of where the link will take you, which is the traditional problem with shortened URLs.

Vanity shorteners, usually tied to a specific company or site, used to be the only way around the anonymity of shortened URLs, but they are aren’t that helpful in a world of Tweet Entities. Does the URL in this link,

Floodwaters Isolate 11 Vermont Towns

8:34 AM Tue Aug 30, 2011

give you any more information about where the link goes than the URL in this one?

They both point to this NY Times article.

I suppose professional Twitterers, like the people who post for the Times, may still want to use third-party shorteners because they can provide traffic statistics—useful if you’re trying to determine what brings visitors to your site. But for the rest of us, letting Twitter do the shortening for us gives our readers the most useful links for the least effort.