Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nothing Lasts Forever on the Internet

Google is forever.

We hope. A few years ago, everyone probably thought that Microsoft Office was everlasting, but as more people move into the cloud, MS Office's days may be numbered.  And remember when AOL was supreme? Remember something called Compuserve before that? Or the days when everyone had fun with free music from Napster?

I'm not writing about Facebook, though that, too, may one day seem like a quaint and distant memory. I want to  talk about the possibility that the popular URL shortening service might bite the dust. URL shortening services are essential; without them we'd be floundering around with gigantic URLs that are as impossible to remember as they are to type. No examples of long URLs are needed -- we all know and fear them.

What happens when a URL shortening service closes down? All of the URLs that have been shortened by that service no longer work. That's what happened to all of the URLs shortened through, which recently came to an end.'s potential problem is that the "ly" domain is controlled by Libya, which recently closed down another URL shortening service because it violated "Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law" by shortening the URLs of some pornographic websites. Many URL shortening services use domains that are controlled by other countries, because those domain suffixes are often shorter, as in "ly" compared to the "com". There's no indication that Libya plans to shut down, but they could -- and it could happen without warning. You can read more about this on Techcrunch.

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