There are a lot of URL shorteners competing for your attention. Still I fail to see a viable business model. Especially with so many of them not charging one thin dime.
Anyway keeping to the focus of the article, I feel the clear winner in the shortener war is bit.ly.
There service is clearly ahead of the rest. While both providers allow you to post twitter messages with shortened links, use tracking stats, allow you to build custom URL’s, and an API for developers to implement their features into existing apps.
One thing that really stands out with bit.ly is the ability to monitor the link in real time, as the clicks come in.If your marketing a website, product, blog, or service this really stands out. No need to refresh a page constantly. They are performing an AJAX style update every 5 seconds. If your tweeting links, and would like to see how effective they are, in real time. This service is clearly the winner.
In addtion bit.ly will tell you what country the clicks are coming from, if the link is conversed about on twitter, or friendfeed. It will also show who is talking about the link. Even if its reTweeted without your username you will see it in the link’s info stats. You can manage multiple twitter accounts, or share to facebook, gmail contacts, and email clients.
Want to see how popular a bit.ly link is? You can! even if you did not shorten it, you can still view every bit.ly shortened link. All you have to do is add a ‘+’ to the end of the URL as follows http://bit.ly/12tJvo+. Put that into your address bar and smoke it! You can see the stats to any bit.ly link. That’s just plain groovy.
I fully expect to see other services copy this clear leader in URL shorteners. Twihrl has built in a feature to allow you use your bit.ly API key to use the service as the preferred shortener. I expect to see this implemented in tweetdeck very soon. What say you?