TinyURL is a URL shortening web service, which provides short aliases for redirection of long URLs. Kevin Gilbertson, a web developer, launched the service in January 2002 so he would be able to post links in newsgroup postings which frequently had long, cumbersome addresses.
The TinyURL homepage includes a form which is used to submit a long URL for shortening. For each URL entered, the server adds a new alias in its hashed database and returns a short URL such as
https://tinyurl.com/2unsh in the following page. If the URL has already been requested, TinyURL will return the existing alias rather than create a duplicate entry. The short URL forwards users to the long URL.
TinyURL offers an API which allows applications to automatically create short URLs. This is done by simply reading the result returned from
Short URL aliases are seen as useful because they are easier to write down, remember or pass around, are less error-prone to write, and also fit where space is limited such as IRC channel topics, email signatures, microblogs, certain printed newspapers (such as the .net Magazine or even Nature), and email clients that impose line breaks on messages at a certain length. People posting on Twitter make extensive use of shortened URLs to keep their tweets within the service-imposed 140 character limit (Twitter had used TinyURL until 2009, then it switched to bit.ly; now Twitter uses its own t.co domain for this purpose).
Starting in 2008, TinyURL allows users to create custom, more meaningful aliases. This means that a user can create descriptive URLs rather than a randomly generated address. For example,
The ability to preview the full URL is present at TinyURL. If the user has previously enabled previews or visits a URL under preview.tinyurl.com in place of tinyurl.com, the site will display the target URL and a hyperlink to it, instead of redirecting to it automatically. This feature is not well documented at the TinyURL site, but the alternative shortened URL with preview capability is offered as an option at the time of creation.
The popularity of TinyURLs influenced the creation of at least 100 similar websites. Most are simply domain alternatives while some offer additional features.
The TinyURL method of allocating shorter web addresses has inspired an action known as TinyURL-whacking. Random letters and numbers can be placed after the first forward slash in an attempt to hit interesting sites without knowing what they will be.
So the 24-year-old Web developer from Blaine, Minnesota, launched TinyURL.com in January 2002, a free site that converts huge strings of characters into more manageable snippets.