What’s the Best URL Shortener for Twitter?

Twitter's own link service beats out close competitors

Laptop computer connected to internet
Fry Design Ltd / Getty Images

Even though Twitter has doubled its character limit from 140 to 280 characters, plenty of people still struggle to fit their remarks into the expanded size limit. As in the past, they use URL shorteners and hashtags to save a few of their valuable cache of characters.

Twitter's Link Service

The best URL shortener for Twitter is the one that’s built into Twitter. Unless you need to track URLs, you don't need to go to an outside website to make a URL smaller. When you paste a URL into a tweet or direct message, Twitter automatically shortens it to a http://t.co link. Anyone who receives the t.co shortened link can use it to go to the destination URL. If the URL of a site you post has been flagged as possibly being malicious, Twitter generates a warning.

You cannot opt out of Twitter's link service. However, you can use another URL shortener to shorten links, post them on Twitter, and follow the tracking metrics they supply as usual. Bit.ly is one such compatible URL shortening service, but there are others.

Bitly

Bitly was one of the first URL shorteners that let you track your URLs, and it remains extremely popular. If you only need a quick short link, paste a URL into the field provided and copy the result that appears. It’s also possible to create custom URLs that are not just a random mix of letters and numbers. With Bitly, you can track analytics and measure performance in real time. The basic bitly service is free, although a fee-based Enterprise version is available.

TinyURL

TinyURL is another one of the original URL shorteners for Twitter. The website is just as basic it was when it launched, but it does the deed. Want the simplest way to create a Tiny URL? This is it. TinyURL guarantees a short link that doesn't break in email postings and never expires. Just go to the site and paste in the URL, add a custom alias if you want to use one, and copy the resulting tiny URL link. TinyURL is free and anonymous, but it doesn't generate any reports or analytics about your shortened URL.

Ow.ly

The Ow.ly URL shortener used to be a free service available to everyone, but now it is incorporated into Hootsuite, the popular social media management tool. Because it is bundled with Hootsuite, you can integrate links in your social media posts easily. You need a Hootsuite account to use Ow.ly, but the free version of Hootsuite offers unlimited access to the URL shortener.

Buffer

Buff.ly is incorporated into Buffer, which is another social media management platform. You can schedule your posts through Buffer to go out at times you preset. The benefit of using a service like Buffer is being able to keep your feed populated even when you’re too busy to post. Create custom shortened URLs you can use on social media posts and emails directly in Buffer. Although Buffer has several fee-based plans, it offers a limited free plan to get you started.