Announcing Shorty

ShortyFor several months now, between my day job, writing for this blog and numerous other commitments, I’ve been working with some friends on a project called Shorty. Today, for the first time, it’s available as a free, public beta release over at

Shorty is a link redirection tool not unlike TinyURL or Url(x), which allows you to take ridiculously long URLs, like those you might encounter at for example, and create much shorter aliases for them. This is useful for all sorts of things, but handiest for passing these URLs along to friends and co-workers through email or in collaborative Web environments.

Yours to Try and Keep

The critical difference between Shorty and TinyURL is that Shorty resides on your server. You install it (all you need is a MySQL database and PHP) and you then have the power of TinyURL and its ilk, but rather than being tied to a third party, it’s a part of your brand.

Below: The Shorty user interface. Try the live demo for yourself.

Best of all, the links you create with Shorty are yours, and they’ll remain active and available so long as your domain is up and you have Shorty installed. This way, you can avoid suddenly having dozens and dozens of aliased URLs you’ve created over the years go away if and when one of these third-party services happens to shut down — much as what happened with did recently.

Shorty Interface

For the Low, Low Cost of Free

To make all of this really worthwhile, Shorty would have to be free, and luckily it is. If you find it useful, we do ask that you donate US$10 to help fund its continued development. But most of all we want you to use Shorty, and to trust that you can create aliases with it as long as you like with no fear of them ever going away. So as soon as you install it, it’s yours forever.

What’s that, you say? You’d rather not go through the trouble of mucking about on your server to install Shorty in order to see if this is a worthwhile product? That’s no problem, because we have a freely available online demo that you can try out right now. Go have a spin, and hopefully you’ll like this beta release enough to install it on your own server (remember, though, it’s a beta release, so the standard disclaimers apply). And either way, please give us some feedback in our forums.

The History of Shorty

Shorty is the direct result of a weblog post I wrote way back in January that also happened to be called “Get Shorty.” In it, I basically lamented the apparent absence in the marketplace of a link aliasing package that could be hosted on my own server; I was basically hoping out loud that someone would whip one up and release it to the world. Well, I got a few messages from various people who answered the call, but the most persistent of them was Reed Morse, who whipped up a prototype and continued to evolve it over the course of several weeks, sharing his progress with me.

Reed and I started to collaborate on a more formal prototype, refining the basic interaction, and then we recruited the incomparable Pau Santesmasses to help us make it possible with some top notch XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. And it’s been Reed and Pau, really, who have slaved away over the past few months to make it a reality, doing a great deal of the heavy-lifting themselves. I think it’s a great end product, and I’m grateful to these guys for making it a reality — Shorty would still be nothing more than a blog post if it weren’t for them.

  1. Khoi, I havent checked out the working app yet…. but i must say the visual design is beautiful. i’ve not seen one of these new crop of 2.0 web apps that has executed something so rock solid in core principles – a true product of ‘design’ and not ‘web-design’. great job. one tiny little note, the home page appears to be having a float or positioning probelm withthe right-hand bar in IE 6. i hate to point that out becuase the app looks so great. forgive me!

  2. I definitely want to check this out. I was burned by babyurl, which went belly-up after I’d littered my site and email with its shortened URLs. I hesitate to use TinyURL, but I thought I had no choice…

  3. I know this isn’t the forums, but I’m too lazy to register at the moment:

    one little (constructive!) nit I’ll make is the icons in the admin screen for “follow shorty” (the little arrows in red/salmon/pinkish circles) read as “return” to me, as they resemble the ‘return key’ icon, and the general idea of a carriage return back to the left, or the obvious analogue in reading.

    In other words, the arrows/icons should be pointing “out and away”, or some other configuration that reads more as outward, or forward, or you get the idea… I can see the counter point that you’re “returning” to the original link target, but… the context/scenario of linking “out” to a link from the admin seems stronger to me than the “back to the link” analogy.

    Sorry for the word mess, too busy to edit myself at the moment 😉

  4. ToddG: Fair enough, we’ll look into tweaking that. Thanks for looking it over.

    Andrew K.: Thanks for the kind comments! We admit, we didn’t look too closely at IE6, since this was done late at night and during off hours. But we’ll look into it and fix it!

  5. Oh and sorry to only nit, it does look quite good overall! Memories of bloody critiques dancing like sugar plums…

    And my take is definitely arguable; it strikes me as the standard internal/external site paradigm is stronger and should thus be followed, but perhaps upon more usage of the app and overall workings, the “context within the app” viewpoint could rise in importance.

    Have you heard from Hollywood lawyers regarding the name yet? Mr Travolta himself perhaps? 😉

  6. Looks great! I’ll definitely give it a shot.

    I was totally put off by these services when babyurl hit the fan, but this does seem like a really nice alternative.

  7. Great concept! One thing in regards to the site design and branding…

    Have you had anybody who is color blind look at this site? If not, you may want to rethink your color palette a bit. Gray and red turn into the same general shade of gray when viewed by someone who is completely color blind. This may make some of the links on the pages very difficult for people to use.

    I’m personally not color blind but way back in the day I did my personal biz cards in a very similar color palette when the manager of the print shop (who was in fact color blind) brought the issue to my attantion.

  8. YeahЁ well I know a color blind guy with IE and IIS who is about to slit his wrists.

    Really though, nice work guys. Looks great. A blurb on the site that talks about how Reed handled data inserts would be good. For Shorty to be really useful for color-sighted Apache people, it would be good to know how the app will interact with MySQL, i.e. are inserts for click-tracking done in real time or Љcached’ and processed in intervals? PHPAdsNew, for example, does a good job of explaining these aspects so one can make an informed decision as to whether it’s a good match for a site.
    Khoi, database crap aside, I wish you would do more posts discussing design. I’d miss discussions like the Funniest Grid.

  9. Awesome to see this live. I’ll install it this weekend!

    Suggestion: When you press the red GET SHORTY! button, you need some indication that the system is responding, such as animating the button AJAX style. Sometimes it takes a few seconds to process, it seems, so I clicked a few times to make sure I didn’t misclick or something. The animation would be reassuring. I need a lot of reassurance.

  10. Very nice tool Khoi. Thank you. I installed a version (with the help of the forums) at

    What I am really wondering is, if there a plans to enhance this as an open tool, so not only the admin may use it, but everybody who likes to…

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