Snip, Trim, & Make a Shorter, Tiny, Baby URL

You’ve probably seen those cryptic URLs like (not a valid link) in an e-mail or somewhere on the Web. Did you ever wonder where they come from and how they work?

They come from free services like,, and Other popular ones are and I found 27 of them; there are probably many more than that.

These services take a long URL like this:

and turn it into an abbreviated version like the one in the first paragraph. Why? Well, how would you like to type in that long URL? Even if you didn’t mind the typing, do you think you could do it without error? You could, of course, cut and paste it, but if you send it to someone in an e-mail, it probably won’t work as a clickable link – the line breaks inserted by the e-mail client will result in an invalid URL. Besides, the short version just looks nicer.

These mini URLs (yes, is another one) work on the World Wide Web like call forwarding works on your telephone. When you click the shortened URL, you are forwarded to the actual URL stored in a database at the service’s Web site, just like a telephone call is forwarded to the number you programmed on your phone.

If you want to learn more about some of the features available from these sites, check out this Web page. If you want a more in-depth explanation, see this page.

You can have some fun with these things, too. Most of them generate a short sequence of characters that they append to their name. Try a few random characters of your own and see where they take you. This page gives some examples of where you might end up. I used my name in one ( It took me to a record company.