No URL shorteners in the comments, please


64 Responses to “No URL shorteners in the comments, please”

  1. gabrielm says:

    Here, let me translate what Antinous just said:
    “Kids these days! Get of my lawn!


    Not that I really disagree with any of the points that you made.

  2. Haakon IV says:

    I’ve never understood why link shorteners get used when you can use actual hyperlinks. They are a step backwards from the web circa 1994.

    It would be nice if BoingBoing comments could use some kind of wiki markup to make links a little easier, though. I’ve screwed them up by omitting the quotation marks.

    • travtastic says:

      Twitter. Although they’re not really necessary in many other situations.

      I use them strictly for lulz-amplification.

  3. Rob Beschizza says:

    I’ve always wanted to add img to that list but it’s too open to abuse and I could never be bothered to figure out how to restrict its use to trusted or at least registered commenters.

    • thebelgianpanda says:

      (($comment_count > 20) && ($img_url =~ /^http:\/\/\//i))

      i mean even that could be righteously abused, so maybe some disemjpeging to go along with that? also, for overly large pictures it’s pretty trivial to write a js function to resize offending pics.

      …eh, even that’s probably a bad idea :(

  4. Ambiguity says:

    Well done. URL shortners are evil, and stand opposed to everything on the Internet that is right and just.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever clicked on one, and I don’t know that I ever will.

  5. Tau'ma says:

    I’m practicing how to mask a URL, testing 123.

  6. a_user says:

    while we’re sort of on the subject I would REALLY like a FAQ on formatting for BB comments – what tags are aren’t unacceptable etc.

    If this already exists it’s buried in a related document with no tags identifying it as containing formatting information invisible to searches – might be time to hive it off into it’s own database entry.

  7. Tau'ma says:

    I’m practicing how to mask a URL, testing 123.

  8. Antinous / Moderator says:

    <a href=”full URL goes here with no spaces”>Whatever you want to call the link goes here</a>. The URL must include the http part and don’t forget the “s before and after the URL.

  9. Orky says:

    So, is the opposite still allowed?

  10. MadMolecule says:

    I’m a fan of, whose slogan is “Don’t just shorten your URL, make it suspicious and frightening.” It takes your regular, legitimate URL and gives you a redirect link that looks like–but is not–a spam link.


    (That link redirects to a Google image search for “puppies.” I promise.)

  11. SamSam says:

    Hmm, so does lengthening a shortened URL work?

    It works! That is a Charlie Sheen-lengthened url of a TinyURL-shortened url of a url! Ha ha! That’s two shortened urls in one link that got through your filters, BoingBoing! Winning! Or something.

  12. thebelgianpanda says:

    on a tangent–for disemjpeging, have a css class that sets the images opacity to 50% while tiling small FMS at 50% over the top.

    yes, that will be my contribution to the interwebs.

  13. billstewart says:

    Good things about url-shorteners
    - the obvious ones are that they fit easily into text messages and therefore also tweets,
    - it can be easier for people to copy them by hand,
    - and they’re much less likely to get mangled by mail formats that wrap messages to a fixed length, either roughly or by word-delimited line breaks, or by things that eat punctuation, especially ampersands,
    - and if a URL does wrap across a line boundary, non-shortened ones are often copied wrong.

    Having said that, I really hate the things.
    - They’re only useful for short temporary conversations, because you’ve got no guarantee that the url-shortener site will exist as long as you want the information and your pointer to, and they break the long-term usefulness of the web.
    - They’re a threat to privacy, because they tell the shortener service who’s read the link and when.
    - They might point to attack sites, spam, etc.
    - They hide the semantic value of the domain name and the rest of the URL, which might have told the reader something they wanted to know.

    Sites that provide their own shorteners are less annoying – they still lose the semantic content of the URL, but chances are that or will persist as long as the full-length URLs on google and youtube, and lots of sites have URLs that don’t really give you much semantic content anyway.

  14. SamSam says:

    @bardfinn: URL-shorteners *do* hurt the web. At least any notion of the web where 1) a user should have some idea of where a link is going to lead, and 2) when you post a link you should feel fairly confident that the link is going to be valid a year from now.

    #2 is broken all the time by news organizations and what-not, but some are getting better. All of BoingBoing’s posts throughout eternity are always accessible through their old urls, as far as I can tell. #1, however, should never be broken unless you have a very good reason.

    @billstewart: Who copies urls by hand? I really don’t think I’ve ever written down a url on paper using a pen in my entire life. I guess two people could both use the web, and still communicate to each other by letters. And talk about websites in those letters…

    @MadMolecule: That is the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. I am definitely using that next time I have to send a link to my security-paranoid sysadmin friend.

  15. MagnanaMouse says:

    I like URL shorteners. I can keep track of how many hits I get. It affects where I continue to post, because if it’s not getting use, it’s useless for me to waste my time participating.

    Shame that people have to avoid them because of spammers. I’m going to have to reconsider their use, myself. I don’t rickroll, so if you see one in one of my comments, it’s clean.

    Hey, I have an account at Is there any way there can be come ‘regular user’ leeway made for people who use accounts at Maybe not allow shorteners that are anon, with some way to verify that the link comes from the same email address as the Gawker acct? Pre-approved inclusion?

    • MagnanaMouse says:

      I said Gawker. Haha. I meant BoingBoing :-)

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      If you use a shortener, your comment is ‘commented out’. It just doesn’t appear publicly. There’s nothing on my con to indicate that it isn’t appearing unless I happen to notice the shortener. The only way that your comment can be viewed is if I cut and paste it into my browser, open up an edit window, then cut and paste the resulting correct URL back into your comment. So, basically, you’re asking me to spend quite a bit of my time fixing your comments.

  16. hdon says:

    Good riddance

  17. rsk says:

    This is an excellent policy, and should be made permanent — and site-wide. Here’s why:

    1. There are no legitimate uses for URL-shorteners. NONE. Any software which can’t, in 2011, accommodate a full-length URL is horribly broken and should either be fixed or abandoned.

    2. No URL-shortening operation to date has demonstrated the will and the ability to deal with the massive abuse they support. Perhaps this is because they don’t care; perhaps this is because they don’t know how — or perhaps it’s because they ARE the abusers. But it doesn’t matter: everyone who runs every Internet operation is responsible for controlling the abuse associated with it, and anyone who can’t handle that simply shouldn’t be running an Internet operation.

    3. There is, by the same, substantial evidence that several URL-shortening operations really are fronts for spammers, phishers, malware distributors, and the like.

    4. URL-shorteners are increasingly, and correctly, being blacklisted. One very popular one spent most of February on the Spamhaus DBL — and getting listed there requires prolonged and serious abuse. It’s off now…but it’ll be back. And this is just one example of many: more blacklists are noticing and are taking action. One now has a category just for URL-shorteners.

    5. Here’s how bad it’s gotten: there is growing consensus among some of the Internet’s most experienced security/abuse personnel that it’s a best practice to pre-emptively blacklist any new URL shortening service the moment it’s announced….rather than waiting for the inevitable. This may seem draconian, but in practice it’s been shown to be quite effective — especially within the last year, when abusers have REALLY discovered how to exploit these “services”.

    The bottom line is the same as the opening line: the ban should be permanent and site-wide.

  18. Jason baker says:

    I always roll my own short URLs, using my own full initials dot us. Thanks Yourls.

    Usually I’m opposed to URL shorteners. They hurt the internet. But sometimes links are otherwise just too long, or you want sometime easy to tell someone, or you want to track clickthroughs of a site other than your own that you post in a public space.

  19. Anonymous says:


  20. bardfinn says:

    URL shorteners are only legitimate in situations where bandwidth is limited: human memory, sms messaging, business cards, and barcodes/qrcodes as examples. Otherwise, Eeeeeeevil.

  21. bardfinn says:

    Also, the argument that “URL shorteners hurt the Internet” is a fallacious one — the same thing was said about the .com TLD, for the same FUD reasons.

  22. Anonymous says:

    URL shorteners would not be needed if certain sites didn’t use obnoxiously long URLs as addresses. As a case in point, does the URL of this item really need to be ?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      No. No, it doesn’t. That’s not our URL. That’s our URL with a feedburner string dangling from its asshole. Did you read my comment at #8?

  23. gabrielm says:

    Cool…. As long as your system can handle the long URLs. Let’s give it a try:

  24. TooGoodToCheck says:

    That reminds me, I know it’s only peripherally related to this discussion, but is there a guide anywhere about what tags you can use in comments? Sometimes I see someone who has quoted someone else, and it’s in a nice grey box, and I’ve never been able figure out how to do that. (despite both googling and experimentation)

    I swear as soon as I post this I’m going to realise it was something super obvious and I’ll feel silly, but I have wondered about this for weeks

  25. Rob Beschizza says:


  26. Anonymous says:

    I thought the whole point of URL shortening services was to spam and send unsuspecting people goatse

    • Dewi Morgan says:

      Actually, that YouTube link can also be:

      In YouTube, click “share” below the video, then check the “short” checkbox. Nice. Think it’s a new feature. Guess they had to do SOMETHING with that domain once they got it :)

      So, they’re at least starting to get rid of the longer URLs where they can, at least.

  27. Ambiguity says:

    a href,b,i,br/,p,strong,em,ul,ol,li,blockquote,pre and <blink>!

  28. Gloster says:

    You could also decide to block the .ly shorteners’, since the revenue from them is going to the nominal Libyan government, while you’re at it.

  29. Anonymous says:

    One use for URL shorteners is when you don’t want to provide SEO juice to the target domain but do want to include it as a footnote. Other than that, it’s just the effects of the Twitter mind-virus.

  30. TooGoodToCheck says:


    a href,b,i,br/,p,strong,em,ul,ol,li,blockquote,pre

    thanks Antinous!

  31. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Here’s mostly why people feel the need to use shorteners:

    - They do a Google image search, choose an image and leave the whole search string.
    - They don’t amputate the internal search string for a site like NYT or, even worse, they leave the feedburner string.
    - They don’t amputate the referral string on YouTube videos.
    - They don’t know how to mask a URL, despite the fact that I’ve explained it very carefully on the Comment Policy page.
    - They have some kind of sick addiction. I’ve seen shorteners that were two or three characters shorter than the real URL.

    Here’s why you shouldn’t use them, from the moderatorial viewpoint:

    - Nobody wants to click a blank URL and end up on an attack site.
    - I end up checking URLs that I could just ignore if I could see that they were from a trusted source. I don’t check things like Wikipedia or IMDb.

    • sally599 says:

      Umm, yeah, so instead of reading that I’m just going to type in “Google it” from now on…

      • jfeit says:

        Not enough time during recess to figure it out? here are four steps to eliminate the scourge of bitly bullshit WITHOUT having to learn even ONE icky html tag:

        1) select url
        2) command-c
        3) put the flashing thing where you want the link to be
        4) command-v

        I cannot understand how this is more complicated than some idiotic shortener.

        • sally599 says:

          As soon as I learn how to mask URL’s I’ll be yelling at kids to read the comment policy and stay off my lawn or wondering why these morons just can’t mask a 5 line URL. I really don’t want to be that guy. Although, I would much rather read antinous’ comments than have him screening tiny url’s all day I’m still sticking with Google it, unless of course that’s too complicated.

          1) select relevant comment data
          2) command-c
          3) put the flashing thing into that box at the top of your browser
          4) command-v
          5) enter

        • Orky says:

          Even worse, to use a URL shortener, you need to paste the URL in a text input widget anyway, so it can’t be an inability to copy-paste.

          • jfeit says:

            Are you really saying that, outside of twitter, shorteners are completely pointless? But that cannot be; I see them everywhere!

          • travtastic says:

            I’m going to start a service where you paste in a URL, and it gives you a link that’s the exact same number of characters.

          • gabrielm says:

            I’m going to start a service where you paste in a URL, and it gives you a link that’s the exact same number of characters.


            That, my friend, is pure genius.

          • jfeit says:

            I’d imagine that would be hugely popular.

  32. Joe says:

    Just ban URL shorteners and don’t work on a fix (unless the fix is to replace the shortened URL by the real one). They are needed sometimes on Twitter because of the 140-character limit, but I don’t like clicking on links when I have no idea where I’ll end up.

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