Keeping shortlinks honest

This post was written for the Bitly blog by our product manager, Dan Touchette.

We recently rolled out a change to Bitly regarding customized keywords and Branded Short Domains. Users who shortened a link to a company’s website were formerly able to create free Custom Keywords and pair them with that company’s Branded Short Domain, making it appear as if the link was created by the company.

Despite previously limiting this capability, users could still manually replace one of our domains with a company’s Branded Short Domain and the shortlink would redirect to the page for which it was originally created. We are now preventing users from manually replacing our domains with a branded one.

We stopped supporting this ability because we understand the importance of the relationship between a brand’s identity and their Branded Short Domain. Now, when a user customizes the back-half of a branded shortlink, the Branded Short Domain will always be replaced with ‘bit.ly,’ ‘bitly.com,’ or ‘j.mp.’

Bitly doesn’t break links. It’s not just a mantra, it’s what we do. By keeping our links permanent, we maintain the integrity of our service and our values as a company.

As a result, we have chosen to support all shortlinks that were created in this way before this change was made. Going forward, if a user manually replaces one of Bitly’s short domains with a company’s Branded Short Domain, those links will not work.

Branded Short Domains are a way for companies to promote their brand and establish trust with their users. Bitly supports companies who want to better control their brand across all of their marketing channels. By preventing the ability described above, we reduce the risk to companies’ brands and prevent the unintended use of brand signals by people who do not own them.

We’re constantly working on ways to increase our security for those who entrust us with their links. At Bitly, we work everyday to make our shortlinks even more powerful and empower those who trust us with their links to take advantage of that power.

If you are a Bitly Brand Tools user and have questions about the change, feel free to reach out directly to your customer success manager. If you’re interested in making your links more powerful with a Branded Short Domain and Bitly Brand Tools, please reach out to brands@bitly.com.