When every character counts, the right URL compacting service can mean the difference between saying what you want and desperately trying to fit a coherent thought into a few insufficient words. Read on for a closer look at the five best URL shrinkers.
Cli.gs (Current Default Size: 20 characters)
Cli.gs is the most feature-rich URL shortener of the bunch. It combines the click tracking analytics of Bit.ly with the editing capabilities of SnipURL, then rounds it off with a competitive default size. Cli.gs has way more features in its analytics than Bit.ly, including a nice graph of hits, a world map of visitors, referrer stats, blog engine sightings, and even references on sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, or blogs. And—naturally—don't forget to install the Cli.gs bookmarklet if you like it.
Is.gd (Current Default Size: 17 characters)
Is.gd (pronounced "is good") has won over a lot of users by simple making small URLs even smaller—shrinking URLs to a tiny 17 characters by default. It's not packed with features, but if you don't need anything but a shrunken URL and quick redirect, it does the job. You can preview an Is.gd link before taking the redirect ride by simply adding a hyphen after the generated URL (so
http://is.gd/4FsT-. Plan on using it a lot? Try installing the is.gd bookmarklet or Firefox extension. If you've got space to spare, you can add your own context to an is.gd URL by adding a "/" to the end and adding your own keywords, like
TinyURL (Current Default Size: 25 characters)
TinyURL is the original URL shrinker, creating small links from larger ones that never expire. Because it's the first popular compactor of its kind, one major benefit of TinyURL is that most people understand what's happening when you send a TinyURL. Want a quick view of where a TinyURL is actually pointing? Just add
preview to the front of any TinyURL (so
http://preview.tinyurl.com/5mw2d3). If you're a heavy user, you may want to install the TinyURL bookmarklet.
Bit.ly (Current Default Size: 20 characters)
Bit.ly sets itself apart with advanced functionality for keeping track of and sharing your shrunken URL. For starters, Bit.ly tracks how many visitors have followed your URL, including referring sites. Bit.ly's info page (like this one) embeds a nice thumbnail preview of the URL and tracks conversations related to the URL on Twitter and FriendFeed. If you're a big Twitter fan, Bit.ly even has an option to post to Twitter directly from the site after you compact the URL. If this one's for you, so is the Bit.ly bookmarklet.
SnipURL (Current Default Size: 24 characters)
SnipURL's biggest claim to fame: It allows you to edit the long URL that the shrunken URL points to. Apart from that, if you've got a lot of URLs to shrink, the multi-snip tool is worth a bookmark. And, of course, a Snipurl bookmarklet is available for quick snipping of any page you're visiting.
Bonus: Find Out Where a Shrunken URL Is Pointing
Previously mentioned LongURL is a web site and Firefox extension that shows you the real link that virtually any compacted URL redirects you to without requiring you to click through. If you face a lot of shrunken URLs, it's definitely worth an installation.
Whether your fave made the short list or not, tell us why you prefer your URL compactor of choice in the comments.