URL shorteners work by taking a long, unweildy hyperlink—say, http://www.appletell.com/apple/author/bstiteler/—and giving it a shorter alias: http://is.gd/1EpqL. This has several advantages: you don’t have to worry about the long URL being messed up by line breaks in an email, and with short text services like SMS and Twitter, you simply don’t have that many characters to use.
There are a multitude of services out there, starting with the venerable TinyURL (which is, ironically enough, hampered by having a needlessly long name), and other popular services like Bit.ly and—my personal favorite (for no particular reason)—Is.gd. They all do essentially the same thing, and many Twitter clients come with one or more as the default service for making your links manageable.
But while reviewing the Nambu Twitter client, I came across another service with an added feature: Tr.im And the difference is if you register (for free) with Tr.im, you can create unique shortened URLs and get statistics about how many clicks you get, plus other standard user info such as platform, date, and whether it was a human or a bot—all extremely useful for people using things like Twitter for business purposes (or just info junkies such as myself).
While anyone can create a link using Tr.im, registered users who create a link get a unique one, which means that, say, if I link to an article on Appletell, I get a short URL that is mine and mine alone; if someone else creates a link to the same article they get a different one, so I’m always clear about how many people are following my link (useful even when my link gets re-tweeted).
Tr.im even has one more trick up its sleeve; though several Twitter clients feature it as an option for URL shortening (like Tweetdeck and Tweetie), they’re created using the public URL service. But you can authorize your Tr.im account to link with your Twitter account, and any Tr.im link that shows up in your Twitter posts will be automatically added to your account, with the tracking info.
For people who need statistics on how their Twitter feed (and links outside of their website) are being used, Tr.im is a valuable addition that makes it a snap to use.