Typical URLs and how to shorten them

Some web sites have very well designed, brief, URLs.

But some have URLs that are way too long. And you don’t always want to be putting them through TinyURL.

Here’s how some of them can be shortened if sending them via email (when they might break when text wraps) or in print.

Anything that’s not bold can be chopped out. And remember when putting it in print, drop the http:// — it’s not necessary to key in, and only slows people down. The same is usually true for the www — though I’m in two minds about that. For publicity etc, it sometimes helps to jog people’s minds that we’re talking about web addresses.

Amazon — it’s the ISBN or other identifier which is critical here

YouTube — remove the country, and any extraneous arguments such as “Featured”

The Age (and other Fairfax sites) — remove the headline text. (This works for their older articles/older URLs too.)

Google Maps — the co-ordinates and zoom quotient (or whatever it’s called) matter the most. Though if you’re trying to specifically point out an address, you’ll need to leave the query in.

Realestateview — gets really messy depending on how you find the property. Some of the arguments tell it what navigation options to show, but when it all comes down to it, it’s the OID which is the critical argument. Mind you, leaving the “rev=on” stuff gives you the area map by default, so better to leave that on if emailing.

BBC News — these aren’t overly long, but can still be shortened.

MS KB — all kinds of different versions of their URLs fly around the place, though a lot of their new links use the most sensible, concise version.
One of many of the old style: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;Q917925
Better: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/917925
(Of course to many geeks, just say Q917925.)

For other sites? No doubt people will have their suggestions.

For myself, when I’m sending a URL to someone, and I have the time, I tend to muck about and remove what look like the extraneous parameters and see what still works. Mind you, some sites don’t work very well for this — Dick Smith (dse.com.au) for example, relies on some kind of weird-arse session parameter, so it’s best to use their own “email this link” feature.

And always check it before you send it.

3 thoughts on “Typical URLs and how to shorten them

  1. Jeremy

    Note, however, that some of the non-bold portions of those URLs are informative. Although they serve no function, it gives the recipient some idea of what it’s about. Therefore, in many cases:
    is probably better than:

    Likewise with The Age example, even to some extent the BBC one (which at least tells you what region it’s in relation to). Unless you think you can explain it better or you think that the URL description may actually disinterest the recipient.

  2. daniel Post author

    Jeremy, true, but in most cases the importance of getting the URL intact to somebody in the email is more important than it being self-describing. After all, you would normally tell them what it is. And in so many cases, a long URL will break in email (which is the point of shortening it in the first place).

    Yeah Ren, I mentioned tinyURL at the top… always an option. Sometimes nice not to have to do that though. (I wonder if tinyURL is really futureproof, or one day will it disappear leaving lots of orphan URLs across the world?)

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