Monday, March 28, 2016

Short and Sweet: A Comparison of URL Shorteners

Last weekend I mentioned in a post that I had taught a Google class that finished with a "what's the one thing you can't wait to share" Slides show. A couple of the class participants selected shortening URLs as their one thing. A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator or, in regular words, the web address you type to get to a website. A URL shortener allows users to take a long, crazy web address and shorten it down to fewer characters that are easier to type and remember. For teachers, this means we can get down to business faster.

In the class, I used the Google URL shortener, Since the class is about Google, I feel compelled to use as many Google tools as possible. There are many other URL shorteners, though, so I thought I would compare a few of my favorites in chart form. As you will see, they all have slightly different attributes. Which one you choose will depend on what you need.

Here is a bonus one-sentence "loves me, loves me not" summary of them too.

I love that is associated with my Google account and that a QR code is created when I shorten it, but I don't love that Google uses O and 0 and I, l, and 1 that all look alike in fonts without serifs.

I love the allows for customization and analytics.

I love that allows for customization but I don't love that there isn't an account to search previously shortened URLs.

I love that allows me to cluster several URLs and shorten them together (this would be so great for school projects with students), but I don't love that the account seems finicky.

I love that is simple and easy and integrates with other Twitter tools.

In the reflection papers that the Google participants wrote, several mentioned how handy a shortened URL would be in their classrooms. In fact, one teacher wrote: 

My students, who are fourth graders, some of whom are extremely low, struggle to type in those long web addresses.  And then, once they get the address typed, they have missed a period or a put in a space and all of their work is for naught.  Their hand goes up and there they sit until I can rescue them from their long wait and point out their error.  Time lost is learning lost. 

I love that the URL shortener will create more time for learning.


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