If someone (say google) wants to acquire twitter, but worries about its fair market value, a cheaper alternative may be to buy bit.ly, assuming the goal of acquisition is to get crowdsourcing links in realtime for building a better search engine. Bit.ly is the default link shortening service for twitter. Most outgoing links on twitter are shortened by bit.ly. My experience on twitter tells me that most valuable tweets have links referring to useful sites. So bit.ly aggregates most useful sites shared by community. More important, bit.ly is a redirection service. It monitors the click rate of the links, which indicates the value of the links.
However, tradevibes shows that bit.ly is brought to you by the same people who built, acquired, or invested in twitter. So it may not be so easy to hijack twitter in this way. But bit.ly is really a useful link aggregation service. As a fact, bit.ly already provides a search engine for discovering tweet links. Bit.ly may be even more useful than those social bookmarks, since people use shortened urls not only publicly but also in private emails.
So why do people use bit.ly? Twitter 140-char limit is one reason. But that’s not all. Tracking purpose is another important reason. If you host a blog yourself, you may have some way to track the click rate. But if you share a photo on flickr, an article you happen to find, how do you know how many people really click your sharing? Even if you host your own blogs, how do you know if people really click 3rd-party links on your blog? Bit.ly is the answer. The dashboard on bit.ly distinguishes it from other url shortening services. It tracks the entire click history including the time histogram, referrers, and locations of clicks. That’s more advanced than some virtual hosting services or blog services.
What inspires me more is this. Large Internet services all have their own private redirection/tracking services. Now, this kind of non-user-perceived component can become an independent startup to enable other services to build on top of it. So the question is what other components like this are missing on the Internet? A lot.