Up until recently, we all knew Bitly as one of the most popular URL shortening services on the web. It was one of the pioneer’s of URL shortening, and I relied on it heavily for this exact reason. I loved how I could customize my URL as well as track stats on it through the service. Back before Twitter automatically shortened links, it was one of the most important services for tweeting links.
But, recently, Bitly did what is commonly know in the tech world as a “pivot.” Yup, they completely changed the direction of their service into something somewhat completely different than their original plan of a URL shortening app. Granted, when a company does something like this, they are bound to take some flack for it and Bitly has been no exception to this. But, after I started to play with it a bit, I found that this new service is a good one and I plan to keep using it.
Get ready to meet the new Bitly: a social bookmarking service that just happens to shorten URLs, too.
Bitmarks: yes, this is what Bitly is now calling the links that you save to the site. Bitly is advertising bitmarks as the new way to bookmark websites. Whenever you come across a site that you want to save for whatever reason, you can save it using the Chrome extension. Or, if you are not using Chrome, you can use the, wait for it, “bitmarklet”. This saves the site to Bitly for you where you can do much more with them.
Bundles is another of the new features, and probably the best feature, of the new Bitly. When you save a URL to the site, you can group it with other apps into their own “bundle”. I am always saving stuff around the web for various reasons and it is nice to go to one place and look at all of the ones that I saved under a specific group. For example, I am always saving cool things that I want to get as gifts for birthdays or what have you, so now when I save a site, I can just add it to my Gifts bundle and that way I don’t have to worry about having all of these links and having to wade through them later to pick out the ones that were specifically for gifts that I am interested in.
Of course with the bitmarks and bundles that you add to Bitly, you want to be able to share them out with people. So, Bitly has made it easy for you to share a specific bitmark or bundle with people on Facebook, Twitter, and/or email. Another neat feature that Bitly added was something called Your Network. Since you can connect your account to both Facebook and Twitter, you can also see what others in those networks are sharing on Bitly. So, if one of your friends over on Facebook saves a public link, you will see it under your network. It is kind of like a news stream of all the things that the people you know are saving. Of course, this feature only works well if the people you are connected to use Bitly on a regular basis.
Features They Have Kept
Although Bitly decided to go in a different direction with their web app, it doesn’t mean that they abandoned everything from their previous service. For one, they kept the URL shortening piece, although you cannot customize it, which I was a little disappointed in. I really liked that I could customize the URL when I used the service before, but I guess they decided not to keep that aspect. Secondly, they have also kept the stats feature and they have made it more robust. You can now see stats on the clicks on your bitmarks. You can also see the general location of where people are from that are clicking on your links as well as other general information that can be useful if you are using the bitmarks for something other than just saving links.
Heading In the Right Direction
Bitly went from a somewhat crowded space in URL shortening to a even more crowded space in bookmarking. But, I think they made the right decision and the features they have make the site easy to use and very useful. I love the bundle feature and the fact that they have connected themselves to the two major social networks. What I liked about this new Bitly is that they didn’t try to take on too much in this new and bold move. They added a few features, kept a few, and best of all, left themselves room to grow. I say that because you will see that the new Bitly is all free to use and there are no paid features. As we all know, it can’t stay that way for long and that they have to figure out a way to make money somehow and this is why they gave themselves room to grow. I can definitely see them adding some premium features in the future that makes it even better than what it is now.
I can’t forget to mention that Bitly has an iPhone app that has a lot of the same features as the web service, and I sure hope that they plan to make an iPad app because this app is just begging for one. They also have a Chrome extension and bookmarklet to help you easily get your links into Bitly.
If you’re looking for a new social bookmarking service, the new Bitly just might be the app you’ve been looking for, even if you don’t want to shorten URLs anymore!