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The 3 best URL shortening services

They do more than just save space

Twitter has been instrumental in increasing the popularity of URL shortening service, such as TinyURL. However, many offer more than just a shortening service. Here's our 3 favourite URL shortening services that offer more.

Twitter has been instrumental in increasing the popularity of URL shortening service, such as TinyURL.

After all, the help ensure users of the micro-blogging service can say what they want to and share URLs without exceeding the 140-character limit.

Simply copy a link, paste it, click, and you've got a URL to share with your Twitter followers. A URL shortener is a simple, no-frills tool.

Now though, URL shortening services are drawing a new crowd of users who aren't necessarily interested in just saving space on Twitter - users including bloggers curious about who's linking to their sites and businesses interested in tracking their social media efforts.

A number of URL shortening sites have added or are adding new features ranging from detailed analytics about who's clicking your links and geographically where they're coming from, to features that 'unmask' shortened URLs - so you know where a link will bring you before you click.

The tools also provide easier ways to shorten and Tweet, without leaving the web page you're viewing.

Here are our top three picks for URL shortening services that do more than save space.

Bit.ly

Sidebar bookmarklet
This browser add-on gives you quick access to shorten URLs; shows you personalised stats for your bit.ly links (such as how many people have clicked on a link); lets you Tweet directly from the sidebar without leaving the page you're on; and shows you in real-time who else is talking about this page on Twitter, FriendFeed and blog comments.

Browser extensions
Bit.ly also has browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome that expands bit.ly and many other short links so you can see to which site you'll be brought before clicking.

Access link data generated outside of Bit.ly
Twitter clients Tweetdeck, Twitterfeed and Seesmic let you enter your API Key so you can get personalised tracking data such as click totals and other information about you links.

Visit Bit.ly's dedicated web page for more information on how to do this.

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