People have been using URL shortening services for over a decade since TinyURL was first launched back in 2002. These have proven to be very useful for forums and online platforms that are very space-sensitive, such as Twitter which has a 140 character limit on posts. In fact, TinyURL was used by Twitter until 2009 when they made the switch to bit.ly.
Since these services come and go from time to time, you may want to create your own service so you will have control over all of your URLs. You can make your service public or private, depending on how much server space you are willing to pay for. One of the ways in which you can have your own URL shortening service involves a three-step process.
- Register a domain name
Since .com, .net, and other domain names are in rather short supply, you may need to go with an international domain name. While some of these can be very expensive, there are good bargains to be found in Puerto Rico. You can also find affordable ones in the far eastern countries of Europe. You want to keep the domain name as short as possible and even try and incorporate the extension into the overall name to make it easy to remember. For example, if you do get one from Puerto Rico, you can go for a name like sup.pr.
- Hire a hosting service
To find an adequate hosting service, make sure it is capable of running PHP 4.3 and MySQL 4.1, or better. This is also the time to decide if you want your service to be public or private. If you want to create the next bit.ly, you're going to need a lot of server space, and most likely, a dedicated server. But if you are only planning on using this service for yourself, or for a select group of users, you should be able to get by with a shared server.
- Install your app
There are other options out there, but YOURLS is the best. It is a set of PHP scripts that you include on your site. They can be either public or private, and can be used to customize all of your URLs as well as generate reports on your activities that involve these links. The very best part is that it is free to install. Once this step is done, you're ready to go and use your URL shortening program for your purposes.
There are a few other ways you could get a URL shortening program started, but in general, they tend to be more complicated and expensive. With this method, you get to have your own URL shortening program, either public or private—all for the price of a domain name and a hosting service.