It seems like everyone and their mother now has their own URL shortening service, or at least their own short domain. Short URLs have almost become a branding thing. But as the use of short links keeps going up, the market share among different URL shortening services is fragmenting. The biggest URL shortening service is still bit.ly, with more than 2 billion links a month, but it now only has a 56 percent market share of short links on Twitter, compared to nearly 80 percent last summer. The drop wasn’t noticed before because TweetMeme, which keeps statistics on short URL market share, pulled its stats page for a couple months as part of a site upgrade to make it more scalable. But now that stats page is back up, and it is tracking 3.1 million unique links per day compared to 2.5 million last November..
So what accounts for bit.ly’s 24-point drop? When TinyURL was the default service on Twitter it had a 75 percent share, and now it has only 8 percent, so these things can shift quickly. But bit.ly is still the default link shortener on Twitter.com and many Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck. Some of the decline can be attributed to the launch of bit.ly Pro, which is a white-labeling short link service for publishers. We use it to publish links to our posts on Twitter with our tcrn.ch domain, which used to be bit.ly links. Even though bit.ly is still powering those links, it doesn’t get credit for any custom domains. In fact, tcrn.ch is now one of the top 100 short domains (see below). So to the extent that large publishers such as AOL, Bing, foursquare, the Huffington Post, Meebo, MSN, and the New York Times switched to custom bit.ly Pro domains, those are no longer counted for bit.ly in the stats above.
I should also mention that these stats represent only a 24-hour snapshot and they are only for Twitter (but Twitter is where the lion’s share of these short links are being passed around). And TweetMeme is now including things like tumblr.com and Justin.tv. Bit.ly says that its own analysis of Twitter’s “garden hose” of Tweets (which is a more limited sample) shows that it is maintaining a 70-to-80 percent share.
Getting back to the TweetMeme stats, if you look at bit.ly’s biggest competitor, it is not TinyURL (7.88%), ow.ly (3.92%), is.gd (3.05%), or tumblr.com (2.79%), it is “Other” (26.58%). TweetMeme provided me with a breakdown of the top 100 URL shorteners and their respective shares (see table below). And while some of them are bit.ly Pro accounts, they still don’t add up to bit.ly’s former share. What you see is just a lot more competition, from youtu.be, Goog.le, yfrog.com, Facebook’s fb.me, MySpace’s lnk.ms (which is down significantly from last September when it was No. 2), ping.fm, and StumbleUpon’s Su.pr. Here is the the full top 100 list. I’ve bolded some interesting names. Note that 4sq.com (No. 27) has twice the share of gowal.la (No. 35) and five times that of loopt.us (No. 59). In live video, ustre.am (no. 28) is ahead of justin.tv (No. 37). And flic.kr (no. 31) and digg.com (No. 33) are further down the list than you might expect. Also, the data in the table below is from yesterday, so it is slightly different from the chart above which is from today and formspring.me is No. 6 in the table because it got some attention yesterday and a lot of people were trying it out.
Update: The mystery of bit.ly’s seemingly shrinking market share may have been solved. TweetMeme’s stats now show absolute market share and that “other” category. Before, it only showed relative share of the top five URL shorteners. If you calculate the new numbers by relative share of the top five, bit.ly would still have about 75 percent. But it also means its absolute share was never that high to begin with. Another factor here is that Tweetmeme now includes short links from more than strictly URL shortening services such as form Youtube, Google, and WordPress, which only shorten their own links. The bigger point remains that the market is diversifying.
Top 100 URL Shorteners On Twitter