Innovation Internet Technology Usability

TinyURL is good, but…

I think there’s room for something a little special. I think the guys at TinyURL could help towards thwarting the effectiveness of comment spam, and here’s how…

First of all, for those not familiar with TinyURL: “Are you sick of posting URLs in emails only to have it break when sent causing the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? Then you’ve come to the right place. By entering in a URL in the text field below, we will create a tiny URL that will not break in email postings and never expires.”

OK, now that’s out of the way, let’s look at my idea.

I tend to see people using TinyURL for comment spam. I have to point out that TinyURL links are a very small part of the overall problem, but I’ve seen it, and it’s a misuse of a great service.

So the problem is that any web address passed through TinyURL is obfuscated. So you can’t tell whether it’s a link to a sobering, lengthy Times article, or a racy series of images depicting a bunch of drunken / drug-addled nekkid girls on Tight ‘n’ Tiny Teens.


However, what if TinyURL offered a trusted service?

What if they validated links and then added a letter to the web address they supply you with to denote trusted or untrusted?

In this example, the tinier version of the web address to this ‘blog is:, but since it’s likely to be trusted, what if it read instead: Where the letter ‘t’ means that the underlying web address is a trusted source.

And conversely, the letter ‘u’ would mean that the underlying web address is an untrusted source.



Nearly there, but could do with [enter your own idea here]

And those thoughts are?

You know what to do…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

4 replies on “TinyURL is good, but…”

Sounds like a useful idea, there are, of course, lots of other shrink-wrapped URL creators out there, but if I’m not missing something, isn’t there a tiny problem with your scheme? Who will add the trusted tag to the URL. SpamBots will always find a way to get around automatic tagging systems, just look at how some work round captchas and even Akismet and Bad Behavior.

I stand to be corrected if I’ve misinterpreted, of course…

Incidentally, I wrote a post about how to use TinyURL within GMail


Hi David!

As I understand it, TinyURL keep the URL at their end.

So if the trusted URL doesn’t match their records, then it’s sure to be spam, or at the very least, niavete.

Spoofing CAPTCHAs is a little more sophisticated, because that’s waiting for a big leap in AI optical recognition.

But, there may well be a low-tech’ 3rd-world way around CAPTCHAs…

If you like TinyURL, you might also want to check out

TraceURL shortens any URL plus it tracks traffic to the page through the TraceURL shortened web site address, showing where the traffic originated. Count accesses and have the origin of the visitor displayed on a Google Map.

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