Using URL Shorteners in Technical Documents

I spend a large portion of my time preparing courseware materials, writing books and technical documentation. These documents include hyperlinks, and some of them can be a 100+ character long. Do you include the long URLs in your docs? The immediate answer is to use one of the services like,, and the like.Beside shortening URLs the may offer other services like click-stats or real-time analytic data.

But all of these services are backed by rather small companies. What if your preferred URL shortener is out of business, but thousands of your books are being sold by the booksellers? This is a bummer! What if all your courseware is sprinkled with these short URLs? Need to schedule an extra time for producing and publishing a revised version of the courseware.

If one of the big guys like Google or Microsoft would acquire such a shortener, I’d sleep a little better. Meanwhile, the only suggestion I can make to use the full title of the linked article in your technical writings. In this case if the hyperlink gets broken, the readers can google up the article by title.

For example, here’s the original 160-character URL of the article about default methods in Java:

If you are familiar with Web programming, you can try to get rid of everything after the question mark, which will shorten the URL to 59 characters:

It worked fine with this URL. Using shortener will turn it into a 22-character URL:

And here’s what you should not do in your technical document:

“Dear reader, to get familiar with the default Java methods please read this Web page“. If for any reason the service is not operational, the readers of your document has no clue of how to find it. But if you use the shortened URL providing the title of the article, most likely that the reader will be able to find it:

“Dear reader, to get familiar with the default Java methods please read the article Java 8 Default Methods: What Can and Can Not Do?” by Peter Verhas. This leave the reader with enough keywords for the article lookup even if the link is broken. Besides, you are doing a good thing by mentioning the name of the author of the article.

Unfortunately, URL shorteners may cause lots of redirections until you get to the actual destination. Spammers love the URL shorteners as well.

Categories Web

12 thoughts on “Using URL Shorteners in Technical Documents

    1. Sure, you can use their shortener if you don’t mind sharing the stats with the world. Just add a plus sign (+) or .info to the end of the shortened link in your browser, hit enter, and you will see all the stats for that shortened link.

  1. I think any third-party’s shorteners should be considered totally unreliable and un-trusted. Third-parties create URL shorteners to fulfill their own third-party’s goals.

    Make your own shortener for your book. It’s very easy. You needn’t your own, simple text file is enough.

    Call it “.htaccess” (this file name has special meaning for Apache webserver) and fill with your links:

    Redirect /lnk1
    Redirect /lnk2

    Now, your links are shortened to and Your book website domain name may be longer than, but it’s yours.
    Remember Google Wave, Google Reader, Google Video, iGoogle, etc.

    BTW, since webserver logs all requests, you’ll have all statistic data.

    1. This is a good idea, but if you write a book that’s published by someone else, maintaining your own server for years just to shorten links is an overkill.

      1. How about asking your publisher about providing the URL shortener for authors? I don’t think it will be difficult for company like O’Reilly and it’s client will be happy.

  2. And what do you do when your employer blocks it with something like: “The website that you attempted to access has been identified as containing content that could pose a risk to the Firm and or may not comply with one or more of the Firm’s policies.” ? 😦

    1. I write a column for, an IT portal in Ukraine. The readers from Russia won’t be able to read it.The Russian government blocked the resource:

      What if they decide to block the URL shortener for making Russian URL too short, which is humiliating? 🙂

  3. Scientific articles typically have “References” section at the end, why not simply put full URL-s to the end of the book and use shortened ones or just “click here” -like links in the text?

    Though, “keywords”-like links still have one strong benefit – search engines will be able to find necessary info even if it was relocated.

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