Make long URLs short with tr.im.it
November 1, 2008, 12:34 pm · Filed under: Twitter, Widgets
The best Dashboard widgets scratch an itch. I’m a big fan of tr.im for URL shortening, but even their excellent bookmarklet wasn’t quite convenient enough for me. Lucky for me that a) tr.im publish a public API, and b) I know how to build widgets.
For a while, I ran my own URL shortening service. I had to shut it down after spammers used it to advertise all manner of unmentionable content. URL shortening services (others include qurl.net, tinyurl.com and is.gd) — as others have noted — have their shortcomings (har har), but are really good for working around the following common problems:
- Sending long links in emails - many email clients are steaming piles that break long URLs into multiple lines, rendering them unclickable
- Posting links to Twitter or SMS messages - both of these services limit you to around 140 characters; a long URL can take up most of that limit
Yesterday, I released tr.im.it, a widget for Mac OS X’s Dashboard that makes it super-duper simple to create short URLs. Here’s how it works:
- You’re cruising YouTube and stumble upon a really fantastic work of cinematic art.
- You think to yourself, “Self, I just have to tweet this, but along with my pithy commentary, the link will never fit into 140 characters.”
- Good thing you thought ahead and downloaded tr.im.it!
- You invoke Dashboard with a quick click of the ol’ F12.
- tr.im.it grabs the URL automagically.
- You click the cleverly labelled “Trim It” button.
- tr.im.it goes out through the Intertubes, asks the tr.im website for a shortened URL, and comes back to show you. At the same time, tr.im.it has anticipated your needs and has copied the shortened URL (in this case: http://tr.im/q4q) to the pasteboard.
- You tweet about your find and are an instant ’net celeb. Congrats!
This is the simplest widget I’ve built in a long time. That’s a good thing. I turned it around in a 24 hour span that also included taking the kids trick-or-treating and several hours of freelance work. I intentionally kept the interface simple. Heck, I didn’t even include a link back to my own site! My hope is the KISS principle will satisfy the 80% of users who just want a quick way to shorten URLs.
This is the power of APIs, I think, especially ones built on solid REST principles. The hardest part of building this thing was figuring out the AppleScript to grab the URL from Safari. Even that wasn’t hard.
In any case, I’m happy to have a widget that gives me a more convenient way to shorten URLs. Find out more about tr.im.it on my widgets page.
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