Tr.impending Doom

By  |  Sunday, August 9, 2009 at 6:25 pm

trimTr.im, one of umpteen URL-shortening services used by Twitterfans and other people who needed to compress long URLs into as little space as possible, is now the first major player among those umpteen servers to call it quits–it’s being shuttered by parent company Nambu. The company says it couldn’t figure out how to make money with Tr.im, and couldn’t find anyone interested in taking it over–and that Bit.ly‘s stance as the default URL-shortener used by Twitter itself means that Tr.im would fail in the long run no matter what.

Tr.im was a worthy contender, but there are plenty of other perfectly good competitors out there, so its closure wouldn’t be a huge issue for new URLs that need to be shortened by Tr.im users. What’s worrisome is the status of existing Tr.immed URLs–of which there are scads all over the Web, and which people are continuing to create right now even though the service is closing. If Nambu shuts down the servers that forward the short URLs to the original long ones, the Tr.immed versions won’t work. The company doesn’t say what its long-term plans are for existing URLs, but it does A) guarantee that they’ll still work through the end of 2009; and B) say that running the servers is prohibitively expensive. I assume that’s a hint, at least, that Tr.immed URLs will likely stop working sometime next year. (Unless someone else steps in to save the service–which doesn’t seem unthinkable given the attention the shutdown is getting.)

If Tr.im does go away completely, it’s a wake-up call we all knew would come eventually, if we gave the matter any thought. Non-shortened URLs will work forever–as long as the page they’re in and the page they link to exists, they’re good. Shortened ones live and die at the discretion of the company that shortened them for you, assuming it doesn’t go out of business. And nearly everybody in the URL-shortening game is a very small company without a proven plan for economic sustainability.

All the information contained in millions of tweets with shortened URLs is tremendously valuable–but many of them simply don’t make sense if you can’t click through to the URL that’s been shortened. Sooner or later, Tr.im’s vanishing act is going to remove all the context from vast numbers of tweets, and the folks who suffer won’t be the people who shortened the URLs, but the ones who want to read those tweets.

I don’t have an inkling what Twitter’s long-term URL-shortening strategy is–hey, are there any clues in those stolen documents?–but I hope it intends to start squeezing down its own URLs. For one thing, I have more faith in Twitter being around for the long haul than I do in the viability of existing URL-shortening services. Also, if Twitter goes out of business, than all those tweets containing shortened URLs may disappear anyhow…

 
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5 Comments For This Post

  1. no Says:

    Whatever happened to doing something on the internet FOR FUN. Because you like doing something that provides a service to other people and not because you want to “monetize” everything?

    What idiot thought “we can forward short URLs to long URLs and get rich!” anyway? I mean… duh.

    I have no sympathy for people who fail at trying to make money on the internet. If you’re selling a product (amazon.com), that’s fine. But if you’re just writing stories, articles, making a database, etc.. then just DO IT… FOR THE KICKS. Stop plastering ads everywhere or charging fees. Unless you just want to take donations to help pay for minor expenses, which is fine as far as I’m concerned.

    Besides, how much money were they erally spending on this service? You get a couple servers. You have a simple script and a database that matches hashes to URLs and forwards them. Oooh. How resource intensive!

  2. Patrick Allmond Says:

    This should be a huge wakeup call to people who are betting a big part of their business on any other business that has no way to make money. Especially Twitter. How is twitter going to get monetized? They are making some guesses internally, and you & I definitely do not know. It is very very possible that Twitter could go the same way tr.im has gone. Popularity has nothing to do with the long term success of business. Cash flow does.

  3. Dave Mackey Says:

    Another take on the story…

    http://bit.ly/yEcZ4

    (heh heh)

  4. Marc Says:

    Twitter’s fault for encouraging these silly services, which have a use on IRC – but for most users they present a security risk. The latest craze in web design is search engine friendly URLs – yet services like these ruin all that. Hopefully a sign this fad is on the way out.

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