People share a lot of links online. This is particularly true as microblogging services such as Twitter have grown in popularity. If you’re not familiar with them, URL shorteners basically squeeze a long URL into fewer characters to make it easier to share with others. With character limits in tweets, status updates and other modes of short form publishing, a shorter URL leaves more room to say what’s on your mind — and that’s why people use them.
Google URL shortener is not a stand-alone service; you can’t use it to shorten links directly. Currently, Google URL Shortener is only available from the Google Toolbar and FeedBurner. If the service proves useful, we may eventually make it available for a wider audience in the future.
Facebook recently began automatically shortening URLs that appear in its mobile interface. So, instead of text link to a Facebook photo appear as http://m.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=35877484&id=1310743&l=a373e8038d, you might see it see as http://fb.me/3Bkj7CW, as Polaris Ventures’ Ryan Spoon noticed (see his screenshot, below).
Fb.me also works as a substitute for any other Facebook page. So if you can write http://fb.me/starbucks instead of http://www.facebook.com/starbucks, as blogger Saad Kamal points out, meaning brands with Pages can more easily do things like share links to Facebook on Twitter.
Of course both Facebook and Google’s venture into this space will threaten bit.ly, the most widely-used URL shortener and default service on Twitter and many Twitter clients. Up until now, bit.ly has moved quickly to become the standard shortener. But the sheer volume of short links which both Facebook and Google can produce could soon overwhelm the number of bit.ly links. It’s the data behind the links, however, which is valuable. Whoever can gather the most unified view of all shortened links will end up winning.