Web & social

4 Ways Google's Goo.gl URL Shortening Service Can Best the Competition

Artwork: Chip Taylor
The Google URL shortening service Goo.gl, that allows you to transform long Web addresses into short easy to remember links, was opened to the public Friday. With the introduction of Goog.gl, the Internet behemoth joins the ranks of Bit.ly, TinyURL, Ow.ly, and dozens of other similar services.

Using Goo.gl new service a very long Web address is reduced to http://goo.gl/ followed by a combination of four letters and numbers. When someone types in the Goo.gl address the requested is routed through Google, which takes Web surfers to the intended site.

Google says it wants to keep its Goo.gl service lean, with an emphasis on stability, built-in spam protection, and speed. But that might not be enough to secure a spot on top of the link-shortening heap. Here are a few more features I'd like to see from Goo.gl:

Shortening Shortcuts Where They're Needed Most

Google has a lot of services that deal in hopelessly long URLs, such as search queries, Place pages and Maps results. Some people say URL shorteners are only good for Twitter social networks, but sending someone a massive URL for search-related services is just rude. If Google included small buttons to shorten these results on demand, sharing a link for directions to your house would be a lot more pleasant.

Expand Links in Chrome

One of the frustrations of shortened URLs is the inability to see where they're taking you ahead of time. There's no shortage of URL expansion plug-ins for Web browsers -- Chrome URL Expander, for instance, makes every URL appear in full -- but I'd like to see this function built directly into the Chrome browser, so when you roll over a link, there are no mysteries.

Create a "Copy" Button

This may seem really trivial, but Google should take a page from bit.ly and include a one-click way to copy shortened URLs to the clipboard. Having to select the shortened link and copy it with a contextual menu in the browser is just one extra step that makes Goo.gl less desirable.

Get Creative

Facebook does something clever with its own URL shortening service: When you type in a user name immediately after the URL, such as fb.me/PCWorld, you're taken directly to that site's Facebook page. I would love to see Goo.gl become a shortcut to services (imagine Goo.gl/m taking you to maps) or even searches (taking you directly to the results when inserting query immediately after the URL).

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