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As we all know by now, there is unrest in the Middle East. You can read about the latest news from worldwide journalists located in all of the countries. The stories are amazing to read and watch. From an Internet perspective, the AFP is reporting that access to Facebook was cut earlier today in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The AFP notes, “From early evening it was impossible to access the popular Facebook site, and connections to other sites were either very slow or not possible, they said. The state of Internet connections in the rest of the country was not known.”
I had a good discussion with my friend Darren about this issue with regards to Internet access for the people of Libya and Darren raised a very valid question. He wondered what happens to the domain names that use the “.ly” suffix.
Back in October, the domain vb.ly was seized by the Libyan government. Alaeddin S. ElSharif, a spokesperson for Libya telecom and the country’s Web service Department said, “Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law, therefore, we removed the domain.” Ben Metcalfe was one of the people who originally registered the vb.ly domain name and posted about the removal noting, “This is deeply concerning for everyone, but especially .ly domain owners, because it sets a precedent that all websites running on a .ly domain must comply with Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law in order to maintain their domains. This is especially concerning for anyone running a url shortener or hosting user-generated content on a .ly domain.”
A year ago, the Libyan Spider Network posted a notice that only companies registered to do business in Libya could register a two- or three-letter domain name. Companies that were already registered, including bit.ly, could keep their registrations. Ben ended his post by suggesting that the .ly domain name space is, “unsafe.”
Update: 10pm Eastern – Andrew Allemann at Domain Name Wire has posted some thoughts on this issue. The overall view I am getting is that the domain names would be cached and would live at least for a bit of time if Libya was to disconnect the pipe.
Update: 8:45pm Eastern: Rich Pearson, marketing VP for blogging software Posterous, noted on Twitter, “we will soon be changing to new short URL so you shouldn’t have to worry” — they currently use post.ly as their URL shortener.
But what happens if the country of Libya just turns off the Internet all together? Last week Twitter client Tweetdeck launched deck.ly, a service that allows you to write long messages which are partially posted on Twitter. What about popular URL shortener bit.ly? Or embeddable content service embed.ly? The list goes on and on…
And if Libya decides to turn off access to Twitter as they have apparently done with Facebook, could they turn off .ly services like bit.ly and deck.ly that are heavily integrated into Twitter?
While I know it’s cool and hip and trendy to have a .somethingotherthancom name, I’ve never been a fan of anything that’s not .com, .net or .org.
So what would hypothetically happen if Libya (or any other country) was to cut access to the Internet. Would domain names registered using that country’s suffix also be instantly cut? I am working to get some answers from domain experts now and will update this post as I get more information.
Web analytics service Clicky has announced the launch of a URL shortener. I don’t write much about URL shorteners because frankly they are way over-hyped. Dave Winer has been posting a lot about the category so check out his blog for more information and education.
In my scan this morning for the Today’s 10, I noticed that Clicky is now offering a URL shortener of their own. The difference with the Clicky shortener (clicky.me) is that it’s directly tied into your Clicky analytics account. You must have a Clicky account to use the shortener.
They compare the Clicky shortener to the Twitter default shortener Bit.ly. Clicky notes that the biggest difference is that Bit.ly stops tracking the user when they arrive to your site while Clicky continues to track the user within their analytics tool. Maybe one day Twitter will allow users to select which shortener we want to use though that’s doubtful especially with their recent click tracking test.
Clicky now allows for segmentation of users and data by short url. They also boast that their offering only tracks humans not evil bots, search robots and other Internet crud.
In typical Clicky fashion they discuss the revenue model for Clicky.me. There isn’t one – well that’s not completely true. There won’t be any direct revenue from the offering but it should drive new users to the Clicky service and will strengthen the overall offering.
One of the comments on the announcement post wonders if spammers will use it since the shortener will work with the free version. If they moved it to paid-only plans, the new offering could help with conversions.
I’ve been using moourl for my shortening needs as it’s quick and has a cow on the page. The only real suggestion I have for all of the shorteners is to offer the preview option that TinyURL does. I never have a worry clicking a TinyURL as I know I will hit a page from which I can decide to proceed. Bit.ly apparently only offers this if you hack the URL (wtf) and I don’t know if Clicky’s offering allows for a preview but here’s hoping they add it. Safety will become more important with short URLs as more of the evil gets a hold of them.
This morning I headed down to the Apple Soho neighborhood to meet with the team at Betaworks. I wanted to find out more about the URL shortener that’s apparently a tech blogger’s dream. The name of the URL shortener is bit.ly and bloggers including Marshall Kirkpatrick were in love with the tool like nothing else. Before we get into bit.ly, here’s some details on Betaworks.
Betaworks is a NYC company that helps startups move forward. They were quick to say they aren’t a vc or an incubator like Y Combinator is. They have a variety of NYC-based companies they either work with or invest in. The Betaworks company list includes: microblogging service Tumblr, location service Outside.in, conversational search service Summize (recently acquired by Twitter) and casual games site iminlikewithyou.
Alright, now back to bit.ly. Bit.ly is a URL shortener. What that means is that if you want to share a long URL in an email, it can create a nice short one that doesn’t break onto multiple lines, etc. That’s the basic concept for all URL shortener tools. The idea for bit.ly came from another project the Betaworks team was working on. They needed a URL shortener for Twitabit and the current 70+ shorteners didn’t fit the bill.
In my chat with Betaworks executives Andy Weissman and John Borthwick, they called bit.ly the “professional” URL shortener. There’s statistics, an archive, page thumbnails, and a platform and API which is open to all third parties. The real key they say is in the API and the ability to process pages for “entities”. Entities are bits of content on the page that bit.ly can extract and display them to help find other content that matches one of the entities you select.
Currently they use Amazon Simple Database for the database functions but are in the process of moving to MySQL. They also use Amazon’s S3 storage option for the site thumbnails. There have been 40,000 bit.ly URLs created so far with 5,000 added everyday. They are a Mac shop and here’s bit.ly lead developer Nathan Folkman cranking out code:
Betaworks is now an investor in Twitter after the Summize acquisition. I was curious to find out if they planned to push Twitter to move away from TinyURL and instead use bit.ly as their primary URL shortening service. John replied with a “no comment” but noted that they want to earn respect as the best URL shortener first. Here’s my bet… the switch over will take place by the end of 2008.
Lastly we spoke about the bit.ly business plan. While they wouldn’t share any specifics yet, the model is centered around data, data usage and there will also be a set of premium upgrades available for publishers and companies using the bit.ly service.
The bit.ly team is currently working on a sign-in option which will allow vanity URL’s to be changed. They are also working on continuing to improve the API and on datastream access.
Can a URL shortener become a real business? I guess we will see as bit.ly moves forward on their product roadmap.