You have no shortage of options if you’re looking to alias extremely long Web addresses into snappier and more email-friendly forms, converting URLs as long as three dozen or more characters and loaded with database and cookie values into a succinct form that even a human might be able to memorize without a Johnny Mnemonic download. The most popular of these seems to be TinyURL, but my favorite is LessLink, because it allows a user to create meaningful aliases by entering her own descriptors, which are then used to construct the URL itself. A typically lengthy link to an Ebay auction, say, might be easily condensed as lesslink.com/obsolete/already/. Other services even allow link tracking and other meta-services to track the traffic passed through your alias.
Whichever of the many such services you might prefer, it’s reasonable to say that this basic functionality is essential for the elegant inclusion of URLs almost anywhere. It’s nothing revelatory to say this, I realize, but it strikes me as odd that even today, only a handful of offline publications employ such a system — and even then, they’re technical publications like Macworld and Wired. As more and more people become self-publishers, too, the need for this small but extremely handy utility only grows.
So I’m wondering why there’s not a solution for this that I can run from my own server? I’m happy to use LessLink in the meantime, but what I really want is to be able to create URL aliases in the form www.subtraction.com/to/imac4sale right from a Web application that I host on my own server. Not only would this preserve any ‘brand integrity’ I’ve got going for me at Subtraction.com, but it would also allow me to more easily track click-through and watch for link rot. It’s just a good idea, and I really have to wonder why there’s not an open source project to make this a reality (please correct me if I’m wrong) or why some enterprising young software designer hasn’t turned this idea into a profitable, low-cost business like Mint. Actually I’m not wondering so much as I’m asking: can someone please make this for me?