Thursday, January 15, 2009

How does TinyURL Actually Work?

I am totally fascinated by the fact that I can go to and create a link to a site that could have hundreds of characters and convert it to a link that only has a few. Zoinks!

What TinyURL does is store the link you give them into a database and associate with a generated redirect link they retain. At the moment, they use 6 alpha-numeric characters to generate a link at the end of their redirect.

This isn't the best example, but I took and converted it to

This one is a tiny (no pun, really) bit better: is now

I am being shameless in using my own sites for examples but I think you get the point. The combinations are almost endless... sort of. I've seen some of the earliest tiny urls just have one digit, so that was pretty early on. At some point, they will run out of possible combinations and then they will have to expand to a 7 digit combination of reference letters.

At the moment, the home page says they've made 100 million+ links.

I think with their present system, they can create 2,176,782,336 links... Each character space has a possible 36 different alpha-numeric possibilities. I then did 36 to the 6th, if that's correct.

So they have a few to go. If they ever expand to a 7 digit reference system, they'd expand their potential link collection to 78,364,164,096 links. Unless, for some reason they go out of business, so to speak, we're OK for now.

Different Applications
A fairly decent argument for using TinyURL is for email. I've had too many emails come to me with links that wrap around and don't get transcribed properly. TinyURL can definitely help with that little flaw.

The site also suggests hiding affiliate URL's with their redirect, but for me, that's not kosher. I'll stick with being up front about things.

They would seem to exist via Paypal donations and link off to a few other of their own sites like and others.

Things to ponder: I've created a few of my own shortened links and keep them in a private document that I can use to distribute if and when needed. That way I'm not wasting space or redoing any "work".

It's a cool service and invaluable to services like on Twitter (My Thoughts Twitter account and my CinemaStatic Twitter account - sorry, more shamelessness). Twitter is a social service. The beauty of it is that it forces you to create messages (Make your point ) in under 140 characters in their message window.


  1. About hiding affiliate URLs... there are scripts that can hijack legitimate affiliate codes and replace them without your knowledge. Imagine if the traffic you refer to a site to earn commissions is appropriated by some malicious bot or nefarious helper app. Embedding the code in a TinyURL makes it impossible for those scripts to steal your revenue.

  2. That's a good perspective to add to this point. Thanks Anon.


Hi - sorry for the confirmation but I need to weed out the noise from the well intended comments. Thanks for leaving a note... - Bruce