Even though it’s April 1st, I have some serious story for you today! It’s about what I’ve been up to for the last six months, which has been a pretty busy, interesting, and eye-opening time for me.
Do read on for intriguing details explaining what that is and why it is so fascinating.
But first of all, let’s briefly introduce you to link shorteners and explain what it’s used for.
You are undoubtedly familiar with web addresses, the so-called URLs , which you normally see in your browser’s address bar.
Now, there’s ever growing amount of informational content in the world, which often causes those addresses to become more and more intricate. They may contain all sorts of characters and parameters, and it gets particularly tricky when it comes to URLs with national characters — for instance, Cyrillic — which get percent-encoded . This usually results in an unreadable mess like this:
The intimidating URL above leads to this same post in Russian, by the way.
Such an unwieldy URL is obviously impossible to pronounce nor to type over; I’m also not very enthusiastic about posting that on social media or messengers because it looks messy.
To address this problem, the humanity has invented link shorteners (also known as URL shorteners) quite a while ago. There’s plenty of them out there:
tinyurl.com just to mention a couple.
The idea behind a shortener is utterly simple: you enter the full URL and get a much shorter one in return. In the case of the link above, for example, I got 1e.to/8P2Fn5.
When someone tries to open that short link later, their browser gets automatically redirected to the original, long URL, whereas the shortener service records the visitor’s data provided by the browser. Thanks to that, the owner of the link can analyze the link’s statistics and the behaviour of its visitors.
Short, attractive links are especially valuable for marketing purposes: according to some studies, branded short links enjoy up to 39% more clicks when compared to generic short URLs. And, of course, they’re much easier to share.
Faster, Cheaper, Better
So why do we need yet another link shortener, you might ask.
We strongly believe we’re capable of building a service that is simply better. We have the best developers and designers in the world of link shorteners. We opt for the smartest solutions and technologies. And we have strict quality standards which ensure unparallelled performance and a bug-free experience.
Why is the performance important?
As you might have heard, search engines tend to punish sluggish websites by lowering them in their search results. And rightly so: according to stats by Google, about a half (!) of visits get abandoned if a website takes longer than three seconds to open:
So, are you still considering using
t.ly, which takes 2.81 s on average only to redirect to your website?
We’re very ambitious and incredibly productive: all you can see in our web application has been developed from scratch during the last half-year.
A few words about the technology stack used:
- Our backend is a distributed system built with Go and MongoDB .
- The frontend is implemented using Angular .
- The projects are built using a fully automated CI pipeline in GitLab , which involves thousands of automated tests.
- The service is running in a Kubernetes cluster, supporting virtually unlimited horizontal scaling .
Certainly, we are still at the beginning of our journey and we have many challenges ahead of us. But the key metrics for us will always be the quality and the functionality of our product — which will inevitably translate into the best price/performance ratio for the end user.
once.to currently offers a free service plan and two paid ones, which provide more features.
Today we’re announcing the public beta availability of our service. Everyone is entitled to a free trial period of 30 days during this public beta phase.
What’s in the box
What we are offering right now:
- An abnormally fast redirect engine with an average redirect time of ca. 65 milliseconds.
- A possibility to create “anonymous” short links right from the home page.
- For a registered user:
- A dashboard showing complete link redirect statistics.
- Custom domains to create short links on, with automated SSL certificate provisioned by Let’s Encrypt.
- Two equivalent “community” domains for short links:
- Branded (customised) links.
- Expiring links, which stop working after a certain moment.
- Future links, which start working at a certain moment.
- Link editing and deletion.
- Deactivating a link (temporarily or permanently).
- Link QR codes.
- Advanced link usage statistics, including figures by browser, device type, language, country etc.
- HTTP redirects of type 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary).
- Complete multilingual support for English, Dutch, and Russian.
- Mobile-first web application.
- Product documentation (a bit limited, but evolving).
When it comes to our plans, the list gets much, much longer. Just to mention some of our prioritised tasks:
- More flexible statistics.
- Smart redirects, allowing for switching the destination URL based on the user’s language/country/device/browser etc.
- Password-protected links.
- Link tags.
- Bulk link export and import.
- Login via social networks.
- Downloadable statistical reports.
The service is currently under active development, and new features are added to once.to virtually on a daily basis.
Stay tuned for more!