Twitter's 140-character limit poses a problem when you share Web links, which often run well over this size. As a solution, services cropped up to offer URL shortening: You enter the address you want to share, and the service provides a link that only takes a few characters, making it easy to fit into a tweet. In 2011, Twitter launched its own shortening service -- t.co -- which converts every link posted on Twitter to 22 characters, despite its apparent length.
Shortening Links in Tweets
Every link you paste or type into a tweet, whether on Twitter's website or through a mobile app, goes through the t.co shortener -- there's no option to turn on the feature and no way to opt out. Links you insert in tweets retain the appearance of their original addresses, but only deduct 22 characters from your 140-character limit. In addition to shortening URLs, t.co screens addresses for dangerous websites and displays a warning when anyone clicks a risky link on Twitter.
Alternative URL Shorteners
Since t.co became automatic and mandatory, there's no need to use an external link-compression service. You can still do so, but even an already-shortened link with fewer than 22 characters passes through t.co and ends up using 22 characters. However, alternate services offer other benefits. Google's shortener provides public click counts, while Bitly offers customizable URLs and detailed statistics that only you can see. Other options, such as Ow.ly, allow you to upload images and link to them in one step. To use one of these options, visit the website, submit your address and then copy the URL the site provides to your tweet.
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