Another hole is about to be filled in Twitter’s product features. CEO Evan Williams just confirmed plans to launch its own link shortener on stage during the final Q&A session at Chirp. HE noted that it would be “stupid” not to add native link-shortening capabilities into Twitter, since most Twitter clients already have that feature. “We want to solve that problem,” he said. “Everyone else has solved that problem. We are probably not going to give people a choice. If they want to use a different shortener, they can use a different app.”
It is not clear how the new feature will affect bit.ly, the third-party link shortener Twitter currently uses as its default, but it sounds like that may change soon. Clues to just such a change have appeared recently. Twitter investor Fred Wilson singled out link shorteners in a post urging Twitter developers to stop filling holes in Twitter’s product.
Twitter already owns its own short URL, twt.tl, which it uses as an anti-spam mechanism in direct messages. But it also owns Twee.tt, which is more in keeping with its brand since it already uses Tweet throughout its product.
Williams did not address bit.ly’s status specifically, so maybe it will continue to have a role. It certainly grew on the back of Twitter. But even if it is no longer used on Twitter.com, Twitter clients may still continue to use bit.ly. If it proves to be a more useful shortener, especially to brands such as Amazon, the New York Times, and others via bit.ly Pro, it may have enough momentum to survive being delisted, as it were, from Twitter.
Update 4/15: I was able to speak with bit.ly and betaworks CEO John Borthwick today about Twitter’s unwinding of their relationship. The impact on bit.ly may be negligible, at least in the short run. It turns out that Twitter stopped using bit.ly as it’s default shortener on Twitter.com back in early December, except for one specific use-case. Read the full update and Borthwick’s response here.