I sometimes visit a popular literary blog where the posts alternate between rambling discourses and cryptic links. I generally prefer the links, except that the author uses the service known as tinyurl for many of them.
Tinyurl was originally intended as a way of doing things like shortening links in e-mails, since some people can’t deal with links that run over lines. It has a few other legitmate uses, such as shortening urls for use in print or in presentations. But there is no excuse for using it in this kind of situation.
There are two main reasons not to use tinyurl unless you really have to:
- First, it is fundamentally a bad idea to disguise links from visitors. When you hover your mouse over a tinyurl link it tells you nothing about the destination. It could lead to a site you’ve already visited, a spam site, or one containing malicious code. Most often, it just results in a waste of time.
(Tinyurl does offer a preview function, but many people don’t know about it, and it gets into the issue of cookies management.)
- Second, tinyurl undermines the basic architecture of the web by funneling links through a single destination, creating a greater likelihood of failure and the potential for abuse.
Maybe on twitter there is a need for these short urls. In general, however, I don’t know why a webmaster would want to remove meaningful content and replace it with emptiness.