I was thinking about easy ways to prevent/solve the problem of link rot resulting from a URL-shortener shutting down its service. Among many ideas (such as Facebook/Google/Microsoft/Mozilla/Wikimedia/Yahoo launching industrial-strength URL-shortening services, that have much more guarantee of remaining alive than services from cash-crunched startups), one idea looked particularly easy and doable - search engines saving mappings of short-URLs in their indexes, for future use.
The way this idea is supposed to work is simple
- Currently, when Google crawls the Web (including Twitter posts), it supposedly indexes only the content (e.g., it indexes only the short-URLs present in tweets)
- Whenever Google encounters short-URLs (recognized by a human-built index of these services), it should execute them and save the mappings in its database
- These mappings will be now be available for reuse to Google Toolbar users
- When a users surfs the Web, Google Toolbar will actively look for any short-URLs on the current webpage (the same way it currently looks for mappable addresses, etc.)
- If it encounters any, it will query Google's short-URLs database to fetch its destination (and it may also be used to feed Google's index with as-yet-unindexed short-URLs, thus acting somewhat like a distributed crawler to help build Google's index)
- If the original service isn't available to redirect the short-URL, the Toolbar will offer to redirect the user to the correct destination
Providing such a feature will help a search engine to differentiate itself from rivals in one more way. And addition of this feature to a Toolbar will make it more desirable/useful.
Update: Just read this story on Ars, about Google's possible plans to include microblogging search into its service. To more deeply understand a microblog post (and its context), it makes sense to execute any short-URL present in that post, and to analyze a digest of the destination. My current idea requires simply recording these mappings, for reuse.
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