In my premature obituary of Tr.im, I took a position where I had suggested that Twitter should buy bit.ly to improve the trust people keep on URL-shortening services.
Bit.ly is another URL shortening
service which has 3 million unique monthly visitors and with a $2 M
Series A funding. Recently, Twitter ditched tinyURL.com and selected
bit.ly for their URL shortening needs. This close partnership has been
cited by tr.im as one of the reasons for their demise. Even though
Twitter and bit.ly are working closer, I think it is time for Twitter
to buy their service outright. This will give confidence to Twitter
users about the URL shortening service. If Twitter owns bit.ly, the
chances of the service to go down like tr.im are actually very slim.
There is no way Twitter will shut down a service that is so intertwined
with their own. Plus, Twitter is yet to monetize their service. I am
pretty sure that one of their options will be based on data mining.
Bit.ly offers an opportunity here with their own collection of data
which can be effectively mined and monetized. Their existing close
partnership with bit.ly should make it easy for Twitter to go forward
with this option. It is important for Twitter to understand that their
success depends on a reliable URL shortening service and buy one such
service rather than partner with them. This will help people trust that
URL shortening service and use in their tweets.
In this post, I will take the opposite position and be critical of Twitter playing cozy with Bit.ly. Being an atheist, I never had a chance to “experience” resurrection but today I got a chance to see the resurrection of tr.im. According to the blog post, they have pinned the blame entirely on Twitter’s favoritism towards Bit.ly. They have also taken the opportunity to warn other developers in the Twitter ecosystem of what Twitter can do to them.
In my opinion, it is good to see Tr.im back in the game even if it is a bit reluctantly. But, for all practical purposes, they have committed suicide. There is no way people are going to trust a service which almost died because the backers felt they didn’t have financial resources to continue running it. However, there is some merit in their argument about Twitter’s favoritism. It reminds me of Microsoft’s approach in the previous era where it killed competition in the browser marketplace by tightly coupling IE with Windows operating system. It appears Twitter (a social operating system) is taking Microsoft’s approach in dealing with URL-shortners (equivalent of browser in the desktop era). Instead, twitter should interoperate with all the various URL shortening services and allow users to select their favorite service under settings. This will ensure a fair game in a marketplace with no chance of usefully monetizing it.
I have written from both extreme positions, one in which twitter should consolidate the URL shortening service to offer stability and the other where it should be fair to many different players. I would love to hear from reader of Cloud Ave about what they think Twitter should do. Feel free to jump in and add your thoughts.