tr.im: An Exercise in How Not to Run a Service

closeThis post was published 7 years 17 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

It recently came to my attention that tr.im has decided to stop accepting new URLs shortened through the website and asked developers to remove tr.im functionality from their applications, and plans to shut down the redirection service in a year or two. I went there to shorten an address on Tuesday but came upon this page instead:

tr.im’s home page as of 2010-04-06

Ever since discovering the service about two years ago, I have shortened almost every URL I post to Twitter, Facebook, and several other such sites through tr.im. That will have to stop, apparently, because those addresses will no longer work in the not-too-distant future. It is unfortunate that nothing can be done about the millions of tr.im links that have already been flung to all corners of the Web.

Apparently, the August 2009 announcement/scare (see Mashable’s coverage) should have been taken more seriously—a lot more seriously. Following that little episode, the overwhelming response from users convinced Nambu Networks (tr.im’s developer, whose main products are Twitter apps) to abort the planned shutdown. I, and a lot of other Internet users, thought all was well.1 Crisis seemed to have been averted. Now this.

Mashable, in the article from last August, stated optimistically that someone would probably buy the service before the planned hard shutdown sometime after December 31, 2009. Obviously that hasn’t happened, or the service wouldn’t be shutting down. But there has to be a better solution than pulling the plug, even if that doesn’t happen until 2011 or 2012.

I can accept that Nambu administrators have had to deal with a lot of spam links being generated using their service, but it puzzles me that the spam would lead hosting providers to threaten termination of the site. After all, Nambu is not responsible for the links its users submit, nor the contents on the other end of its redirections—but that’s far beyond my expertise.

However I must wonder: Instead of just giving up, why not develop better spam-fighting algorithms? Digg, Reddit, any site that accepts user-submitted links—even Facebook and Twitter—have countless spammers fighting to get their links in front of millions of users, and they all do a pretty good job of keeping it off the site algorithmically, with no human intervention. I don’t see bit.ly giving up its fight against spam, or is.gd, TinyURL, SnipURL, or any of the other established shortening services. They must have spam link submissions too, but they get by. None of the other shortening services I’ve come across in the past few years have ever threatened to disappear, for spam volume or any other reason—and I’ve looked at a lot of them. Yet tr.im has done so now twice in less than nine months, and it looks like this time may be for good.

A lot can happen between now and when Nambu decides to finally pull the plug on tr.im’s redirection service, of course. Perhaps a buyer will surface. (Then again, offers were made in August, only to be turned down because Nambu didn’t feel it could trust the potential buyers.) Perhaps Nambu will change its mind—again. Heck, I’d buy the service and run it myself if I had the funds. Anything’s better than breaking millions of links across the Internet; shutting down a service like tr.im will even affect email archives, since shortened URLs make their way into emails all the time.

No matter what happens, I’m going to follow the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I stayed loyal to tr.im and Nambu after they threatened to make my digital world fall apart last summer. I continued to use their awesome service because I loved it—the name, the interface, everything—and they’ve turned around and made the same threat, only stronger. I cannot possibly ignore this decision, what amounts to pulling out the knife they stabbed in all of their users’ backs in August and driving it back in an inch away. It’s absolutely infuriating. SnipURL (and snurl.com, sn.im, cl.lk, and snipr.com—the service maintains five different options), here I come.

tr.im, you’ve been a great example. Nambu, I sure as hell won’t be buying any of your software products, ever. You better give some serious thought to giving us users a way to keep the redirections working, or at least a way to export the redirections we’ve created so we can go through and change or annotate whatever old content we can to keep the links from breaking, because that’s the big reason I’m angry. If you simply shut down, you will be intentionally breaking a large percentage of the Web.

Is this the future of millions of tr.im URLs all over the Internet?

Is this the future of millions of tr.im links?


Notes:

  1. It is, however, true that many users vowed to never again use tr.im after that episode. I wasn’t one of them, but as it turned out that was a mistake. []

dgw

I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.

One Comment:

  1. islami sohbet

    Thanks for writing. I worked a lot of work

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