Short links are going out of control. There are many short link offerings out there, all of them pretty much do the same thing. And some folks have found some perverted ways of using them. Here are some of the problems I encountered recently that made me create an ethical and featureful short link service.
Redirection after redirection after redirection! I once clicked on a short link on some blog post, which sent my browser literally going in circles till it finally landed on the page the short link was supposed to redirect to. Curious I was, I opened the developer console to see what was going on. And below is what I found, a redirection centipede with all sorts of tracking going on.
Masked short links
The chaining of redirects also makes it possible for people to mask the short links from affiliates. So a short link from lets say adf.ly can be masked into a bit.ly short link. And people clicking on the bit.ly short link will first land on adf.ly page where they are forced to see an advertisement and then finally get redirected to the page they wanted to browse.
These masked short links also ask you to disable your browser’s ad-blocker plugin. It is better to close the window instead of turning off the ad-blocker.
Yes if a humble affiliate short link can be masked, anything can be masked into a harmless looking short link. Just use your imagination, you won’t know what you clicked on till it is raining %$!&*&*!£) and malware. Next time you will think twice before you click on a short link while your kids are still around.
This redirect chaining and affiliate ads create loads of cookie on your browser, and without consent may save information about the user. Almost every short link provider tracks the user’s activity who is totally unaware of it. This is a total invasion and disrespect of user’s privacy.
Recently, while working on a MVNO application, we had to send a reasonably long HTTP link in SMS to the customers. So naturally we opted for short link services; but to our amaze we found out that it is almost impossible to send additional information with the short links (from major short link providers). All we wanted to do is pass a query string to the short link and wanted it to be copied to the original long link at the time of redirection, but not to be. One of the providers offer this “feature” in a paid service. The major concern of most of these providers is “tracking” the user activity, which is also important for the business; we do it as well. But tracking is something that is not always required, so for heaven’s sake make the short links a bit more useful and practical.
The ethical and feature-full short link service
All these issues explained above forced me to create a short link service that respects the user. A secure service that doesn’t track the person who is browsing the short link, a service that doesn’t allow redirection chain and affiliate cookies. And a service that discourages short link creation for dodgy websites. A service that does what it is supposed to do i.e. to shorten the link the visitor wants to browse. And at the same time does not compromise on performance and is feature rich.
And so Xulu came into being, an ethical short link service that respects the user’s privacy.