Advantages and Disadvantages of URL Redirection ServiceBy Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Friday, May 1, 2009
URL redirection service is not new. Recently it has become extremely popular thanks to Twitter and its draconian 140 character limit on messages. Let’s find out what URL redirection really is and what you can get out of it; advantages, disadvantages and finally some popular URL redirection services.
URL Redirection Service
URL redirection service fundamentally forwards one URL to another, normally in a different domain. For example if you want to tweet about 10 cheapest digital cameras below 100$ then the url itself will consume 63 characters, leaving only 77 characters for your tweet. Now that’s bad. This is where a URL shortening & redirection service like bit.ly helps you. It will not only shorten the URL to a meager 21 characters - http://bit.ly/digicam but also gives it a meaningful name for your end users. When you click on the new URL (give it a try - http://bit.ly/digicam ) or type it in the browser, you are redirected to the original web page.
Advantages of Using URL Redirection Services
The primary function of URL redirection service is to shorten URL’s. Often websites use large query
URL redirection services often allow you to assign meaningful names to the shortened URL’s. We have provided an example before. Let’s have another example. Do you find http://gadgetophilia.com/bmw-mini-e-beginning-of-next-gen-electric-cars/ to be too small or easy to remember? I know I cannot remember it even if my life depended on it. So lets use an URL redirection service and name it something shorter but much easier to remember. Check out http://tinyurl.com/BMWelectric. It is the same URL but now even I can remember it.
Pass Page Rank
Most decent URL redirection services uses 301 redirect (permanent redirect) directive to forward the browser to the actual location. This has the added benefit of passing on the page rank to the destination URL, thereby making the original page more important (page rank wise) in the eyes of search engines. However you should really verify this feature before adopting a URL shortening service. I know for sure tinyurl passes the pagerank this way.
URL redirection is extremely useful for obfuscating the source URL. When you are using an affiliate link, which normally tends to be gobbledygook (like for example for this link for an excellent VPS web hosting provider - http://affiliates.westhost.com/z/9/CD291/ ), you can use an URL redirection service to not only shorten it and make it more meaningful but also make it harder to recognize just by looking at it or being manipulated by bad people. Affiliate marketeers often use URL redirection service for this reason. Many malicious scripts residing in the compromised browsers and / or operating systems (read windows) are known to recognize and modify the affiliate links to benefit their owner.
API Access to data
Many URL redirection service like bit.ly, for example, provides access to click and traffic data through an API. bit.ly, for example, exposes the data using a REST interface. This allows you to layer your own product and services on top of such services.
Whenever any service gets popular, revenue is bound to follow. Adjix is one such service which allows you to earn revenue from the shortened URL’s you post on twitter using their service. So if you are a heavy twitterer, you can earn something for your efforts too and at no extra cost. Unfortunately Adjix uses framing to serve ads on others content which many consider unethical and also not fair to web sites. Personally I don’t recommend Adjix. Having said that there are other ways in which url shortening services can be ethically monetized. More on it later.
Keeping URLs Precise and Meaningful
Take Google for an example. To maintain security and encryption, they have gone so ahead with the URL that surely a contest can be held where to remember a particular google session URL, one will be given the sharpest memory award. Lol. But here is the obvious concern too. To represent data hierarchies, command structures, transaction paths and session information, even the fixed URLs (which are not single session bound) can look very weird and impossible to remember. That is why, you can choose URL Redirection service to make them short and precise and also within that, you can give the visitor a faint idea of what he is going to click on.
URL Redirection service as a database
I can bet you haven’t heard about that, have you? Interestingly one of the earliest and most popular URL redirection service tinyurl can also be used as a large web based database, a simple persistent Hashtable if you will. Here is how you can use tinyurl to anonymously store huge database online.
Other than these, there are some more well known features of URL redirection services.
- Tracks clicks and other statistics
- Bookmarklet for easy access
Disadvantage of Using URL redirection service
Unfortunately URL redirection can be easily used to lead people to malicious sites
URL redirection and phishing are related to each other very closely. http://security.commerceflow.com can lead to http://phisher.com by a simple process. Redirects that translate a reference to one URL into another URL are commonly used in web programming. If a careless programmer at a targeted institution leaves an open redirect accessible that can be used to redirect to an arbitrary location, a phisher can gladly accept that loophole and provide you with a legitimate-looking URL that will redirect to their site.
Some of the search engines were fooled by this in the past. One page could show popular search terms to search engines but redirect the visitors to a different target page and thereby increase the page rank. Though its a punishable offense now.
URL redirection service provider’s Accountability
You have a trusted URL redirection service provider who has shortened, precised and placed millions of redirected pages with their program. What if one day, they stop their service. God forbid, if tinyurl or shorturl gets into problems and decide to quit, I wonder how many web-hosting companies will be victimized! The links will be dead, they will lead to nowhere leaving the company to recover all their redirected website links and start it afresh, if at all possible. So this accountability issue will always be there unless you use URL redirection service from your server and domain without going for any third party.
Its true that URL redirection service has its share of dark clouds. However, the immense precision and utility that these URL redirection services hold, it is better not to deny them. They were never utmost important or essential. But, they have always been beneficial and will be too. I will wrap up this segment by giving you links to some well known URL redirection service and at the same time promise to come with an informative technical article on How To Use URL redirection service.
Tags: dot.tk, notlong, Phishing, redirect webpages, shorturl, slashlink, TinyURL, URL Redirection Service