The Internet Archive and 301Works, a consortium of more than 20 URL shortening services, are partnering to preserve the millions of condensed links shared every day on Twitter and other streaming services. 301Works’ members are donating their URL mappings and sending regular back-ups to the Internet Archive for storage. The working group has picked up Stowe Boyd as its director.
Shortened URLs are condensed web addresses. Because Twitter has a strict 140-character limit, users try to squeeze in links by shortening them through a service like Bit.ly or TinyURL. There are a couple of huge players in the market — most notably Bit.ly, the default URL shortener on Twitter, which accumulates massive amounts of data about what’s being shared and how traffic is directed through the microblogging network.
But many smaller players, including the makers of Tr.im and Cli.gs, which the White House uses for its Twitter account, couldn’t keep up and found that it was too resource-intensive to maintain their services without any foreseeable payoff. So they announced they were closing down their services earlier this year, prompting a huge uproar about the longevity and stability of shortened links. A shut down would mean that these old shortened links would break, and all that data would be lost.
In a strategic move, Bit.ly’s leadership including CEO John Borthwick, realized that if people lost confidence in the reliability of shortened links, they might stop using them. Hence, 301Works was born. (Tr.im is notably absent.)
All participating companies are members of the 301Works.org Working Group, a technical and policy discussion group, but the Internet Archive will manage the over all initiative in a fashion consistent with its charter as a non-profit organization, and supporting the interests of the greater community ahead of those of the participating companies.
Participating companies will provide regular backups of their URL mappings to the 301Works.org service. In the event of the closure of a participating organization, technical control of the shortening service domain will be transferred to 301Works.org in order to continue redirecting existing shortened URLs to their intended destinations.