Updated at 3:40pm PDT with a response from Bitly about negative reactions to the redesign

The simple link-shortening service Bitly just got a major redesign. What started as a way to make long links short enough to fit into a tweet has evolved into a social link-sharing site.

Bitly is taking a stab at every browser’s built-in bookmarking feature by offering its own bookmark service. The creatively named bitmarks are links you can save in your private collection or share with the world. Bitmarks can be added via bookmarklet (a button that goes in you browser’s bookmarks toolbar), a new Chrome browser extension, or on the Bitly website.

Of all the content- and link-saving services, Bitly might have the advantage of simplicity. Pocket, Instapaper, Springpad, and Evernote all provide spaces to save links and content, but are often hindered by webpage formatting issues. Bitmarks seem to be much simpler because they don’t grab any content, just the URL.

Bitly also includes a slick search feature, similar to Google’s, that makes searching for bitmarks quick. Bitly thinks that while there are people who will carefully organize their bitmarks, most of use are lazy and need a strong search feature to make the service useful. You can see it action below.

An older feature of Bitly, called bundles, is getting a revamp with the update. Bundles are groups of links that can be shared with others. You can also invite people to curate a bundle on say, puppies or gadgets. Bitly has made bundles more interactive and easily sharable on Facebook and Twitter.

Bitly’s redesign corresponds with the release of the Bitly iPhone app to keep track of your bitmarks on your phone.

Comments on a company blog post in reaction to the redesign aren’t exactly positive. People who have used Bitly exclusively to shorten links are complaining about the more complicated design. If you don’t have an account with Bitly, or choose to not login, you can easily shorten a link on Bitly’s homepage. However, if you login into an account and want to shorten a link, you have to “add a bitmark,” save the URL, choose to keep it private or make it public, and only then can you get the shortened link.

In response to the negative reactions from Bitly users, the company had this to say in an email to VentureBeat:

We completely understand the concerns expressed by some of our users. One thing we’d like to stress is while things have moved around a bit, none of the functionality within bitly has gone away. They’ve shifted a bit to enable us to focus on enhancing the most common use cases in saving and sharing bitly links (for example, we moved click/referrer stats to their own more detailed page). We’ve worked with hundreds of beta testers for months to incorporate feedback from them, and hope that this evolution of bitly will be more valuable in the long run. That said, this is only the first phase of the evolving product and we’re going to continue to make fast iterations based on feedback we receive from our members.

Bitly is in talks to raise a reported $20 million third round of funding. So far Bitly has raised $15 million from a laundry list of investors including Ron Conway, SV Angel, and AOL Ventures. The company is based in New York City and was founded in 2008.


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