Sad day yesterday to see tr.im announce that they are shutting their doors, after failing to make a business of a nice service with a great URL. The bit.ly team suspected something was wrong over there — we’d seen some tweets about down times — but we had no contact or outreach from the Nambu/tr.im team till we emailed them last night.
The permanence of the URL mappings is an important piece of the now web/twitter ecosystem. Joshu wrote this up in a typical succinct piece earlier this year. At bit.ly we have built a redundant system (see other blog posts for background: http://bit.ly/89kbD ). This redundancy, along with with the logical separation of our systems and multiple backups of our mappings, makes us feel fairly comfortable about the permanence of our URLs. But it doesn’t address the heart of Josh’s issue — he was talking about the industry as a whole, not any one service.
Back in April, we reached out to several of the leading URL shortening services to suggest a wayback machine-like approach to archiving the mappings of the URLs. The idea was simple. Each week bit.ly and other participating shorteners would bulk upload URL mappings to a separate service — allowing users access to the mappings in case an individual shortener went down. We registered 301works.com (and .org) for this service. We thought this was a useful idea — something that was inexpensive to execute and important for the industry. That said; tr.im along with other services said no thank you. There are some privacy issues that make this approach potentially problematic — namely participating services need to assert the public nature of the URL mappings. If I send you a private short link to a map that shows where a treasure box is hidden in my back garden, that is a link you don’t want made public. I reached out to Eric at tr.im yesterday after hearing of the announcement and offered to host the URL mappings in perpetuity. He doesnt see the need for this right now — his interest is in selling tr.im.
tr.im potentially shutting down makes the need for something like 301works even more pressing. This isn’t hard to do — the archive could be hosted on amazon. In 2009, a service like this could be spun up and off and running in weeks. We contacted several people again about 301works yesterday — we will post updates here as they develop. I suspect that a reason for the reluctance to join up with 301works back in April was that a competitor was reaching out asking about this. We have reached out to some friends who run a non-profit whose mission is related to this — hopefully they or someone else in the industry can help/assume leadership here. Our intent is to help the industry as a whole. Redirect tables in their simplest form have limitations — but the internet has shown that a little bit of redundancy can go a long way.
Two last, related points here. tr.im has a great URL — it’s clear and short — if someone buys it and wants to use our infrastructure to drive it (and 301works to back it up), please contact us on this blog or by email (we offered this to tr.im as well). And while we love the bit.ly brand, we recognize it could be a character shorter. We will follow up on this shortly. Thanks as ever for using bit.ly — this stuff is important.