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Is outrage over Bit.ly’s new design merited?

URL shortener, bitly launched new features and a completely new look today, and a group of users flocked to Twitter to express their criticism, but is it merited?

URL shortener gets major makeover

Today, URL shortener, Bit.ly unveiled a completely overhauled design, adding bookmarks, profiles, and its first mobile (iOS) app. Commenters to bitly’s announcement1 were harsh, criticizing the new version, saying “You’ve made a simple, easy-to-use tool remarkably complicated.”

Bitly sees over 300 million link clicks every day, and has overhauled their service to be more robust and mobile, branding functions around their name, so rather than “bookmarks,” they offer “bitmarks,” and instead of “citizens,” they refer to users as “bitizens.”

“Bitmarks are the interesting links you collect across the web — a hard to find recipe, an article, an awesomely hysterical video,” bitly said in a statement. “It’s anything that you find and want to save and maybe even want to easily share. You can organize them into bundles based on a theme or share them with your friends via Facebook, Twitter and email. You decide whether each bitmark gets published to your public profile or saved privately, so that only you can see it.”

Immediately noticable features

Surpassing the quality of social reactions found through other services, bitly shows the number of shares of any URL shortened, not just through the bit.ly system, so try shortening a URL and go to the analytics (click “3 clicks” or the blue link offering analytics), and you’ll see a list of social shares even when using ow.ly, fb.me, and even the actual URL without a shortener (see example here).

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Bitmarks are searchable, so when you’ve bitmarked a link, just like on Evernote or Microsoft’s One Note, you can search your saved content, which gives users a reason to spend more time with the tool, rather than simply shortening and tracking a URL.

The new (free) iPhone app allows users for the first time to shorten links easily via mobile and gives access to bitmarks as well as saved pages that can be viewed while offline.

Bitly bundles have also become collaborative, whereas the two year old feature has been limited to bundling lists of links into single shortened URL that could be shared and tracked.

Why all of the complaining?

In the past, you could go to bit.ly and in a big box at the top of the page, you would copy and paste a URL which would automatically be shortened. You could then share that URL to Twitter or Facebook. Easy peasy.

Now, you see the following options:

Adding features has led to an extra step in the form of a save button, which is the crux of the Twitter blowup over the new design. The site’s new features enrich the user experience, and while bitly devotees complain about how confused they are by a save button (which appears on almost every web service since the dawn of time, how “confusing”), we believe the company has added better functionality that give us cause to actually visit the site, rather than just opt to use bitly links through Tweetdeck.

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It is understandable that early users were attracted to the service for the simplicity and it only having one true function (shorten a link to share and track), but adding profiles, bookmarking, and mobile options is an upgrade in service, not a downgrade, and while there is an extra click, it is worth the extra step to get a more robust user experience. They may lose a few early adopters confused and dismayed by an extra click, but the added features make for a better long term play for the company as they attract more new users.

1 bitly announcement

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ToniaRies

    May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Hi Lani – sorry – but I don’t agree.  It’s one thing to upgrade and add features.  It’s another thing to completely ruin the functionality that users depend on in the process.
     
    The old bit.ly toolbar extension allowed me to create a shortened URL, and automatically inserted the title of the story I was tweeting, along with the name of the site, all in one click, plus one click to tweet.
     
    Now, tweeting this story takes 4 steps:
    1. click the bookmark
    2. Copy the title of the story into the field of the tweet and type in the name of the site
    3. click the “save and share” button
    4. click the account I want to tweet from to send the tweet
     
    Given that I share dozens or more stories a day via bit.ly, this is a significant increase in the work involved — and has us working on an alternative, more simple way to share links moving forward.
     
    As far as the upgrade:  does the world really need another social bookmarking service?

  2. Jack Cassedy

    June 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Yes. It’s terrible. It takes more steps to grab a bitly link than before, both on the website and using the browser extension. 

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