The History of Link Shortener

Link Shortener History

Let’s take a look at the history of URL Shorteners and find out when humanity decided to use link shorteners.

Most of us (especially social media managers) are using link shortener every day. It became so common that might feel like URL shortening service has been always on the way of a few clicks, but is it so? As an open URL shortening service, we consider important to share the overview of the history of link shortener.

The Beginning of the URL

URL itself – the Uniform Resource Locator (in simple words: a web address) was invented in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee. Tim is more known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

The beginning of link shortening service
The beginning of link shortening service. The image is illustrative and was downloaded from Pixabay.

So with the rise of the dot-com era, more and more websites were created every day all around the world. This increased amount of URLs created and shared between users.

Based on the numbers shared by the number of internet users in April 2000 reached 361 million people. Here is the shortened link to the internet growth statistics page:

Thanks to the incredible growth of the Internet, especially since 2000, URL was a great connecting tool between webs and users. The only thing, that might look strange nowadays, these URLs were long, but almost nobody didn’t think that links could be shorter, until one man….

The man who decided that URLs could be shorter and that a link shortener would be helpful.

That man is Kevin Gilbertson (@unigilby) .

The legend says that he created TinyURL to simplify sharing images of unicycling with other members. TinyURL was launched in far January 2002.

TinyURL link shortener
Screenshot of the TinyURL link shortener

At the present time, this “made-for-fun” project makes life easier for million users. Based on the information shared by SimilarWeb, in August 2018 had 29.22 million users. 62,95% of visitors come to the website directly, which means this link shortening service is really loved by people.

Worth Of Web Academy rates that TinyURL website is worth $32 million. Customized short link to the source:

One of the points, why TinyURL received their respect, is good timing, simplify and no ads. However the last point could bring Kevin good extra profit, but of course, it’s not about the money, when your page is worth $32m 🙂

Here is the short link to an interview with Gilby (that’s how mates call him) posted in Wired:

The era of Link Shorteners was Started.

The success of gave many other entrepreneurs hope that they also can get their sweet piece of pie from this link shortening trend.

Thus, hundreds of link shorteners were created. Alternatively, another popular alternative link shortening services in due time were,, Finally, was later bought by Gilby and now page link redirects directly to the TinyURL web page.

Nowadays it is even hard to count the real number of link shorteners available. The amount could be counted in thousands and a new link shortener is created every day. To simplify the choice, we have created the list of the ” Best URL Shorteners to Generate Short Links in 2019″.

How Twitter Helped URL Shorteners to Become Popular

Thanks to Twitter, launched in March 2006 and its traditional 140 characters limit, its users had to start using a link shortener to save space for the text.

Twitter helped link shortener to became popular.
Twitter helped link shortener to became popular.

In 2008 Twitter had 6 million users and that’s a lot of new people who might start using a link shortener. In 2008 it meant 11.1 percent of adult Internet users.

By the way, today Twitter has 328 million users as of the second quarter of 2018. Imagine, 328 million people using a link shortener. And these are the possible numbers from Twitter only. Based on the information shared by Smart Insightsthe number of internet users worldwide in 2018 is 4.021 billion.

Other Services Understood the Importance to Have Their own Link Shortener

Straight after and Twitter, plenty of Big Players came into the link shortener game.

Link shortener became popular.
Link shortener became popular and serious players came into URL shortening game.

In February 2008 launched their link shortening service. Based on the information published on their webpage, since the launch until July 2017 32 billion short links were created using their link shortener. That is one of the reasons why they received $63 million majority investment from Spectrum Equity.

Launching a link shortener service and using its potential was a right decision, isn’t it? You don’t necessarily have to be always the first to get profit from something. became into the link shortening world 6 years after the TinyURL and now its leading link shortener.

In far 2008 there were also other popular link shorteners, such as SnipURL, Shorl, Rurl, Metamark, Notlong, Tweetl, URLTea, MooURL, ICanHaz and of course TinyURL.

Wind of Changes in the World of Link Shortener

Link shortener. History
Wind of Changes in the World of Link Shortener.

In August 2009 WordPress launched their own link shortener: Now it redirects directly to the WordPress main page.

The main news in the link shortening world in 2009 was caused by Twitter. Twitter, who used previously TinyURL switched their short link provider to Hence this action helped to receive the leading link managing service title and to move TinyURL on the second place.

Straight away in December 2009, Google launched their own link shortener: In plenty of reasons today they decided to shut down their link shortening service. Here is what they say on their webpage: “Starting March 30, 2018, we will be turning down support for URL shortener. From April 13, 2018, only existing users will be able to create short links on the console. “

Meanwhile, in the same year, 2009 Google decided to challenge bitly as king of the link shortening service. The article about that suddenly started shortening war is published in The New York Times:

In 2010 Bitly allows using branded links. Twitter starts working on their own link shortener. Google starts to provide link analytics data and to create QR codes. Link tracking data is one of the features of our link managing service.

The Whole Mobile Industry was Changed and that was Excellent for Link Shortening Services.

Mostly thanks to the first iPhone which was released in 2007, the whole mobile industry started to change super fast. Changes were fast and the growth of the mobile industry continues even nowadays.

Mobile industry was changed and that is good for link shorteners.
Mobile industry was changed and that’s good for link shorteners.

The first iPhone completely turned over the whole Mobile Industry and took it on the next level.

Smartphones weren’t any more simple devices with buttons. They became a real competitor to computers and changed the way people use the Internet.

Based on the survey made by the Bank of America, 91% say that their smartphone is very important for them and for 60% it is even more important than coffee.

In a few words, this opened a huge potential to link shorteners, as now people started sharing and clicking links more than ever before.

The more Digitalized world Requires more Features.

Link Shorteners started to offer more link managing features.
Link Shorteners started to offer more link managing features.

As a huge part of the traffic was now created using Smartphones the Link Managment Features became necessary.

One of the first services that started providing link tracking solutions were ClickMeter, launched in 2012. It helps users to track, compare and optimize all their links in one place.

Today, you can track all your short links easily using your account. Here you can read more about How to Track Clicks on a Link. URL Shortener allows to track the following short link statistics:

  • How many users clicked the short link
  • How many unique users clicked the shortened link
  • Demographical statistics, list of countries
  • Which operating system did clickers use?
  • Browsers used most?
  • Has someone shared a short link on Social?
  • Were there any referrals connected to this short link?

To see the full features list you can get access to, go on our Features Page.

In conclusion of link shortening history…

The history of link shorteners might look not that long, however, it starts in 2002 and has been helping users to short URLs already 16 years (until today 2018).

Since years the way we shorten links has been changed, as well as leaders in that field.

Nowadays short links influence the way we communicate more than ever and much more than most people think. Short URL today is more than a shortened link, it allows to track and manage a lot of useful data, increase conversion and optimize the marketing strategies.

If you are interested in getting most from your short links, feel free to read about “10 marketing ideas when to use a URL Shortener”.

The history of link shorteners is definitely just in the beginning and to be continued…

This post was about:

  • The history of link shortener
  • The beginning of the URL
  • TinyURL Link Shortener
  • The beginning of link shortener
  • How Twitter helped URL shorteners
  • Importance to have link shortener
  • Changes in the world of link shortener
  • How mobile industry helped link shortening services.
  • Short link management features

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