Tips: Shortening URLs

+11 votes

If at all possible, I like to provide a link to my sources.  Formatting:Adding links provides directions on how to do this basically it is Bracket- URL – WordsDisplayed - EndBracket  e.g. [ Google] creates the link Google.  The problem is that URLs can often be very long, making the profile (especially in edit mode) very messy.

The answer is to use a URL shortener.  My favorite is the original –  What makes it so convenient is it has widget which you simply drag from the tinyurl home page and drop bookmarks toolbar (directions here).  After that, 1 click of a button takes a long URL and makes it short and clean.

For example, if I wanted to provide a link to the google books copy of the NEHGR with the will of John Eaton, it is 324 characters long:,+of+Dedham,+though+sicke,+yet+sound+%22&source=bl&ots=KyrPb4GZWZ&sig=hK5Ex0pzykAE--HSC56324mY3Kc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BfzwVM3RBYKiNvmkgfAE&ved=0CD4Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22John%20Eaton%2C%20of%20Dedham%2C%20though%20sicke%2C%20yet%20sound%20%22&f=false      

A bunch of these in a profile and the profile can become very difficult to read and edit.

However, tinyurl allows with 1 quick click and less than a second later to have:    

You can also custom name the URL:  

URL Shorteners are just a way of more easily and cleanly working with those way-to-long links, and gives you a way to more efficiently link to vital information.

in Policy and Style by Joe Cochoit G2G6 Pilot (233k points)
edited by Joe Cochoit

There are others (some even shorter), but I have some concerns about most of them.  The main concern is whether or not the new link will be permanent.

TinyURL promises that the link will never expire.


Twitter has a popular one  however your links are owned by twitter, are supposed to be for twitter use only, and they expressly say the links may not last.

Google has their own service and also state they won’t expire:  however google has a history of adding and dropping services to meet their own needs. is another one.  But it is owned by an advertising company, and I don’t trust them to maintain their links. is yet another – again it is designed and advertised as a marketing tool.  In fact I believe almost all of the other URL shortening services are owned by for profit companies and so are less likely to maintain these links far into the future.

As a matter of style, I have been placing my links at the end of a source.  I find it makes the reference easier to read and also easier to edit.

For example, <ref>Haverhill.  ''Vital Records of Haverhill, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849, vol. 1 Births''. (Topsfield, 1910):185-189. [ LINK]  

to recreate the reference:

Haverhill. Vital Records of Haverhill, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849, vol. 1 Births. (Topsfield, 1910):185-189. LINK

In the editor is a link button which has a down arrow and if you create text like


http://jump_here and highlight it. While it is lit you can click on the link button and make a long address the words selected. Without having to use outside advertisement driven jump to sites. Hope this is helpful.


Hi Joe

Have you read the G2G discussion Should We Use URL Shorteners?

2 Answers

+9 votes
Frequently a lot of the stuff on a URL is about how it's presented and what you searched for. In the case of your example, using gets you to the same page.
by Anne B G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

I much prefer URLs that actually include details where the content is located, over the "tinyurl"-type route that Joe recommended. I think it's enormously helpful to see that a URL points to Google Books or or or a long-ago discussion in a forum on RootsWeb. Also, many cautious people avoid "tinyurl" links due to concern that they may disguise websites that distribute malware.

Some examples of abbreviating a URL:

Additionally, Wiki-formatting allows you to hide the display of a URL, so that the reader sees only a hyperlinked title or document description, while  full URL will be visible in edit view and if a person hovers over the hyperlink.

To do this, put the URL, followed by the text that you want the reader to see, in single brackets. Like: [URL title and page number]. (I'd illustrate this with a real example, but the forum doesn't have the "nowiki" coding that's necessary to do that.)

Good ideas on shortening urls while leaving them as real urls above, but I am not a fan or short URLs based on tinyurls or some similar mechanism for wikitree. Mills' Evidence Explained in sections 2.33 Core elements to cite and 2.37 Web addresses URL while not explicitly addressing short URLs. indicates URL is an identification of a websites. A tiny url is not really an identification of the web site; the actual website name and address is.

One other problem is that you do not really know where a tiny url is going to go. Think about those e-mails you get that you should not click on links as they can install malware and the like. The same problem can exist with tiny urls because you do not know what website you are really getting to. If you think that cannot happen at WIkiTree you should see the nefarious links are place new profiles that WikiTree Rangers have to be on the look out for.

So my perspective is the sources and citations are at their best when they clearly identify the source. This facilitates collaboration and source verification. Having the actual name of the web site adds clarity.

While I understand the concern over long urls, when following the most current guidelines for profile creation, we have a Biography section and a Sources section. When using inline sources (or not) these long urls (and complete citation/reference information) is at the end of the written biographies. In this case I do not see that they are not really a distraction from reading the text of the biography.
0 votes

Good or bad ?!?
I have experienced that you can't trust Google and the short URL service....
(see link Google shortURL team say its Spam protection ?!?!?) 

Yesterday I learned that the map Google display has different borders dependent from what country you surf..... they are not evil but listen to the one that gives them most cash?!?!  So be careful out there....

Example of message you can get 

" – this shortlink has been disabled. It was found to be violating our Terms of Service. Click here and here for more information about our terms and policies respectively."


by Living Sälgö G2G6 Pilot (276k points)
edited by Living Sälgö

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