TinyURL is a free URL shortening service that produces short, memorable alias URLs for existing web pages. It enables users to enter a long URL and add a custom parameter to create the shortened URL. This URL then redirects to the web page from the original URL. The shortened URL never expires, so as long as the destination URL is the same, the shortened version will always be functional.
These kinds of URLs are most commonly used in email campaigns, social media posts, print advertisements, and other marketing efforts where an easy-to-remember URL (or one with limited characters) is beneficial for driving traffic to a specific page. It’s also helpful for adding UTM parameters to a link without making them obvious to the audience.
In addition to TinyURL, other examples of URL shortening services include Bit.ly, Rebrandly, Owl.ly, Cut.ly, and Shorte.ST. Unlike some of its competitors, TinyURL has always provided all of its features for free. Some social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn also have inherent URL shortening services, but users must create an account to draft a post and access those features.
History of TinyURL
TinyURL was launched in 2002 by Kevin Gilbertson, a web developer who wanted a way to post links to news articles without having a cumbersome URL. Users weren’t originally able to add custom aliases to make their shortened URLs more impactful; that functionality didn’t come until 2008. Over the years, TinyURL has also added features such as a toolbar extension and link previews, but has left its user interface identical to the initial design from 2002.
TinyURL reached its peak popularity when Twitter leveraged it as its default link shortening tool until it switched to Bit.ly in 2009. To date, TinyURL has generated more than a billion shortened links.
Like other URL shortening services, TinyURL poses some risks for people who click links it has generated. TinyURL does not monitor the links that are generated from its site, so unless link preview is enabled, there is no way to verify what the redirected page will be. This means cyberattackers can veil malicious links that may contain viruses or other content that could damage your computer. Similarly, users may click links that have been disguised with TinyURL only to realize the content on the destination page is inappropriate or explicit content.