With the spread of social media on the web came increased sharing of websites and stories among friends. The popularity of Twitter has only increased the amount of interweb sharing that’s taking place. However, with the advent of Twitter came an idea that was not a part of more traditional social media – the 140 character limit.
The 140 Character Limit
Twitter has stated many times why there is a 140 character limit. Originally, when Twitter was created the inventors envisioned it as a way for users to share via SMS (read: mobile phones). At the time the international limit on text messages by most carriers was 160 characters. Therefore, as stated by Biz Stone, “140 is the character limit on tweets because the international limit is 160 -20 for the tweet author’s name.”
So What Problems Does the 140 Character Limit Pose?
The 140 character limit hinders the process of effective sharing on Twitter due to the fact that if a URL is shorter than 140 characters, you aren’t left any room to add comments or info about the link you’re posting. And even then there’s still the URLs all over the web that exceed the limit on their own.
Enter the Short URL
A short URL is a process by which you make a link available on the internet via a short link which enables, among other the things, the ability to share on Twitter and still add value to the link by commenting about it. The problem arises when someone misleads you by masking the true identity of the destination URL by using a shortened URL and directing users to destinations with malicious intent.
Don’t be too scared. There are ways to protect yourself depending on the browser you use or even 3rd party Twitter applications. Interclue is a Firefox add-on which once installed allows you to float your mouse over a link and click a bubble for more information about the destination of the short URL.
Another option would be to choose the correct 3rd party application, such as TweetDeck. TweetDeck allows users to enable the option to see more information about a short URL by clicking on the actual URL in the Tweet. A pop-up allows you to see more information about the link and then decide if you want to follow it.
If you’re not into installing an add-on for your browser or using a 3rd party application, you can always do things the old-fashioned way and copy & paste the short URL into the tool at LongURL. Voila – more information.
It’s as simple as that. Don’t be afraid of the short URL – embrace it, but make sure you’re protecting yourself. What are your favorite tools for deciphering short URLs?