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Twitter is forcing all hyperlinks submitted within tweets and direct messages to use its URL service t.co, the company announced on its developers blog today.

The t.co service, which launched in June, was initially intended to shorten the character length of long URLs. Previously, any URL over 19 characters was assigned a new t.co URL, but as of today all links will get shortened, or “wrapped” — regardless of character length.

Twitter has various reasons for forcing all hyperlinks through t.co. It eliminates the security risk posed by third-party short link services (like Tinyurl and bit.ly) that don’t allow the company to screen for malicious links. But more importantly, t.co URL wrapping is central to Twitter’s new web traffic analytics service unveiled in September.

The new analytics service lets users see how many page views are generated from each tweet, retweet and reply as well as other statistics. As VentureBeat’s Matthew Lynley previously reported, the new analytics service is intended as a lightweight tool. And according to the company, it isn’t designed to compete with more in-depth analytics provided by companies like Google, Bit.ly and more.


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Link shortening and analytics are just some of the services that Twitter has decided to bring in-house — leaving many to question where it stands in relation to its rich community of third-party developers.

“Twitter’s just trying to consolidate the activity on its site so everything is under its own umbrella — presumably with the eventual expectation that it can somehow make money,” said John Boitnott, VP of business development t at Hasai, a social media and web marketing firm. “So, they are just doing what they have to. Otherwise they don’t get the privelege of existing.”

Boitnott, whose firm manages traffic reports for several well-known brands, said Twitter’s ability to push traffic to outside websites has diminished over the years.

“Twitter, over the years, has slowly brought less and less bang for your buck on every metric — whether it be per tweet or monthly totals … weekly totals, you name it,” he said, adding that having and interpreting a large network (and/or community) of people is necessary to optimize referral traffic.

[Disclosure: John Boitnott is a former VentureBeat writer and VP at Hasai, which does contracted marketing work for VentureBeat.]

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