Business Software

Tr.im's Demise: The Death of a Non-Product

URL-shorteners are a feature, not a product. So the death of tr.im is hardly surprising. If it's hard for Twitter and Facebook to make money, what hope do these utilities have?

In searching out profitable niches, entrepreneurs regularly stumble upon ideas that seem valuable--like tools for shortening long URLs so they work with Twitter, SMS, and don't get messed up in email--but can't turn a dime.

Sure, people use them and like them. They may be necessary, but, they are so dependent on someone else that they are product features rather than standalone products.

Not all great ideas result in great products, even if a people like the result.

What really needs to happen is for the Twitters and Facebooks of the world to annoint the winners and move on. And Twitter seems to have done that, with tr.im blaming bit.ly for some of its troubles.

"Twitter has all but sapped us of any last energy to double-down and develop tr.im further," tr.im's owners said in a statement. "With bit.ly the Twitter default, and with us having no inside connection to Twitter, tr.im will lose over the long-run no matter how good it may or may not be at this moment, or in the future."

TinyURL is widely considered the gold standard for link shortening, but with a staggering two billion hits-a-month the service still seeks donations on its site. Hardly a compelling story for the venture capital community.

As for link rot, so be it. Yes, at some point, as these link shortening services fall by the wayside, so will support for the links they served up. That suggests that people should all rush to the likely survivors, which will only hasten the demise of all the others.

Link rot doesn't bother me too much, however. I think it's great that there will be something on the Internet that isn't preserved forever for all to see. Twitter really isn't supposed to be the archive of human experience it seems on the way to becoming.

Industry insider David Coursey uses both bit.ly and TinyURL, tweets as @techinciter, and can be contacted via his Web site.

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