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URL shorteners are evil A

Found at: zaibatsu.circumlunar.space:70/~solderpunk/phlog/url-shorteners-are-evil.txt

URL shorteners are evil
-----------------------

A quick rant:

URL shorteners are evil.  You know the ones I mean.  Strange little URLs from
stranger little TLDs that nobody has heard of, with short, random alphanumeric
paths.  You click them and that mysterious server with the strange TLD issues
you a HTTP redirect to the place you *actually* want to go.  They're evil.

1) They stop you being able to hover over a link and know where you are going.
I like being able to do this, as often knowing where the link goes helps me to
decide whether I want to bother following it or not.  Perhaps I've been to it
before, perhaps it's from a source I don't trust, etc.  URL shorteners impair
this decision making.

2) They make the web brittle.  If page A links to page B using a URL shortening
service, and the URL shortening service goes down, but page A is still accesible
and page B is still acessible, the link is broken when it doesn't have to be.
This is not just annoying for end users, but it is a huge problem for archiving.
90% of all URL shortening services will shut down in the next 20 years.  Pages A
nad B will probably be preserved forever on archive.org or some descendent
thereof, but that link will be broken eternally.  This is bad

3) They facilitate surveillance.  The people running the URL shortening service
get to know where everybody is going online, because everybody hits their server
first to request the redirect.  Using IP tracking, cookies, browser
fingerprinting, all the usual suspects, they can record the links clicked by a
single individual over time.  They can then do whatever they want with this
information, including sell it.

Given that these things are so clearly evil, why do they exist at all?  As far
as I can tell, they became popular when services like Twitter forced people to
compose very short messages.  This is, of course, an artificial limitation
which was originally introduced so people could fit a tweet into the character
limits of an SMS.  Approximately nobody ever does this anymore, but the
artificial limitation now remains in place because, well, tradition, I guess.
Because it's expected.  But it can be lifted, as newer services like Mastodon
have shown.  So URL shorteners now have pretty much no valid use case, which
means they are nothing but a net negative, a scourge on the internet.

Don't use them!  Yell at people you see using them!  All that is necessary for
the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.


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