Twitter URL shortener improves security - and Twitter's profits

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Twitter is testing a new URL shortening feature that it says will improve security - and that could also give Twitter a lot more saleable information on its users.

For the last three months, in an effort to prevent the malware attacks that have been sweeping the site, Twitter has been routing links within Direct Messages through its link service and wrapping them with a twt.tl URL.

The new feature effectively delivers this protection to all tweets, as well as allowing users to share shortened links from the Tweet box on Twitter.com.

With t.co, all links posted on the site, whether directly or through third-party apps, will be shortened and scanned automatically. The feature's currently under internal testing.

"Ultimately, we want to display links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened link and lets you know where a link will take you," says communications VP Sean Garrett.

The first step is an early developer preview, allowing developers to choose how to display the wrapped links in the most useful manner. Those who already use a particular shortener can continue to do so, with Twitter wrapping whatever shortened link is submitted.

The information Twitter gains through the rerouting will also help it in its efforts to make money from the site.

"In addition to a better user experience and increased safety, routing links through this service will eventually contribute to the metrics behind our Promoted Tweets platform and provide an important quality signal for our Resonance algorithm — the way we determine if a Tweet is relevant and interesting to users," says Garrett.

"We are also looking to provide services that make use of this data; an example would be analytics within our eventual commercial accounts service."