The bit.ly redesign

I want to start by saying that I love the bit.ly brand. Even more, I love almost all of the team that powers bit.ly. Hillary, Todd, Jehiah, Justin, Matt, Matt, and Jeff (to name just a few of my favorite of the bit.ly staff) are all much much smarter than I am. So I’m sure they knew what they were doing with these changes and that it was all done with a lot of forethought and intention.

Still, I have to say, as a long time fan and user of bit.ly…I just don’t like it.

I have historically used bit.ly for two main reasons:

1. I can generate custom short urls - things like knwb.it and turfd.it that help me push my own given brand when I (or my users) share a link. It’s not a must have feature, but it’s certainly a nice ‘put me over the top’ thing when deciding what short url service to use (honestly without the custom url thing, I would just switch to goog.le at this point).

2. I can get click stats - this lets me know exactly how many clicks a shared link I, or a user via one of my services, generates. This is the original reason people fell in love with bit.ly, and I think it’s still the most important service they provide to users.

That’s it.

There is nothing else I directly need or want from my bit.ly experience. And the sad truth is that, if you don’t care about click counts and you don’t care about a custom url, then you probably don’t need a link shortening service these days anyway (most services that require short urls have that feature built in now anyway).

But don’t get me wrong, I do believe bit.ly is sitting on a gold mine of data and I do want to see them do more than just custom short urls and link shortening.

I just don’t think it should be the front and center experience for the core bit.ly service.

In fact I would go so far as to say that I think whatever they do shouldn’t be called bit.ly at all but instead be a completely new brand…or at the very least a new brand that is 'powered by bit.ly’.

To start, I would argue that bit.ly itself has long survived on a mantra of 'avoid bloat at all costs’…they should be eating that dog food when it comes to the bit.ly product itself.

Make the service short and clean just like the urls they deal with. Do the bare minimum that differentiates you and continue to kick ass at it.

Then with your new brand(s) 'powered by bit.ly’, take advantage of all the awesome data you have pumping through your system and go out and invent the next wave of amazing services.

Make something that focuses on bookmarking (not interesting to me, but others will love it).

Make yet another social network for me to see what links my friends are saving and sharing (also not interesting to me, but sure others will love it).

Reinvent what 'news’ can be as it relates to things of interest across the web right now (or maybe just continue to help news.me do that).

Make a kick-ass real-time search engine that is purely based on the data behind the links people are currently sharing (very interesting to me and something I know they already have working on the backend).

All of these things, and much more, are completely possible from the bit.ly data set (and easily achievable by the amazing bit.ly staff)…and I would love to see them progress on each…but not as one big, unified, bit.ly service.

None of this is how bit.ly got to be the amazing company that it is…and none of it speaks to the core reason people fell in love with bit.ly in the first place…worse, none of this speaks to how bit.ly actually make money right now!

I get that they are trying to drive more user interest in bit.ly, that they are trying to get more and more people to create and share bit.ly short links, to build the bit.ly data set and extend bit.ly’s reach…and they should totally be doing just that. Just not at the expense of the core bit.ly brand and service.

That’s all I’m saying…

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

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