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Chapter 3. Third-Party Google Services > Simplifying Google Groups URLs

Hack 38. Simplifying Google Groups URLs

If the Google Groups URLs are a little too unwieldy, the Google Groups Simplifier will cut them down to size.

Google Groups [Hack #30] can produce some rather abominable URLs for individual posts. One message can generate a URL the likes of:


This is a difficult URL to save and reference—not to mention emailing to a colleague.

Andrew Flegg's Google Groups Simplifier (http://www.bleb.org/google/) munges Groups URLs, compacting them down into something more manageable yet still allowing them to function as before.

This is a handy little tool. To use, it copy the URL that you want to make smaller and paste it into the form on the Google Groups Simplifier page. The URL above simplifies to:


Note that this URL is from an individually viewed message and not from a message thread (which is several messages in a framed page). If you try to simplify a thread's URL, you'll get an error message from the Google Groups Simplifier.

How does this work? The Google Groups Simplifier chops off everything but the &selm= part. Not very difficult to do, but the URLs are so large that it's handy to have an automated way to do it so you don't remove more of the URL than you need to.

If you plan to use this tool a lot, the Simplifer also offers a bookmarklet from the front page.

38.1. Other URL-Shortening Options

The Google Groups Simplifier is handy, because it shortens the URL while still making clear where the URL comes from. A glance at it and you know that the URL is from Google Groups. However, in some cases you might find that the URL is still too long and you need to shorten it still further. In that case, you might want to use one of the URL-shortening services.

URL-shortening services generate unique codes for each URL provided, allowing extremely long URLs to be compressed into much shorter, unique URLs. For example, Yahoo! News URLs can be terribly long, but with TinyURL, they can be shortened to something like http://tinyurl.com/2ph8. (Note: these URLs are not private so don't treat them as such. TinyURL whacking—http://marnanel.org/writing/tinyurl-whacking—covers making up TinyURLs to find sites other people have fed to the system.)

Don't use these services unless you absolutely have to, though; they obscure the origin of the URL, making the URLs difficult to track for research. They do come in handy if you have to reference a page cached by Google. For example, here's an URL for a cached version of oreilly.com: While it's not as long as a typical Google Groups message URL, it's long enough to be difficult to paste into an email and otherwise distribute.

TinyURL (http://www.tinyurl.com) shortens URLs to 23 characters. A bookmarklet is available. The service converted the Google Groups URL at the beginning of this hack to http://tinyurl.com/180q.

MakeAShorterLink (http://www.makeashorterlink.com/) shortens URLs to about 40 characters, which when clicked, take the browser to "gateway" pages with details of where they're about to be sent, after which the browser is redirected to the desired URL. MakeAShorterLink converted that Google Groups URL to http://makeashorterlink.com/?A2FD145A1.

Shorl (http://www.shorl.com), in addition to shorting URLs to about 35 characters, tracks click-through statistics for the generated URL. These stats may only be accessed by the person creating the Shorl URL using a password generated at the time. Shorl turned the Groups URL above into http://www.shorl.com/jasomykuprystu, with the stats page at http://shorl.com/stat.php?id=jasomykuprystu&pwd=jirafryvukomuha. Note the embedded password (pwd=jirafryvukomuha).

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