Update: J.mp links appear to be working on Facebook again. No word as to what arrangement Bitly made with Facebook.
URL shorteners are often the biggest spam challenge facing sites that aggregate content submitted by users. Social news sites like Digg and Reddit never promote these links, opting for direct links instead, but what about sites like Facebook and Twitter? Their update length restrictions were likely the reason for the URL shortener boom.
Facebook took action against jmp, a variation of bitly, and blocked all of them from being posted. In response to a Techcrunch article, a Facebook representative wrote:
“As part of our effort to keep Facebook and the people who use our service secure, we closely monitor the content shared on the site for spam and malicious content. At the time we blocked j.mp, more than 70% of j.mp links pointed to spam or other security issues. We are working with bit.ly to resolve the issue.”
What does this mean for jmp, a variation of bitly, and other URL shorteners? It would be a logistical nightmare for them to analyze links and block those that are spam or security threats, but on their own they rely on aggregators like Facebook and Twitter to make themselves relevant.
To date, they’ve relied on the aggregators themselves to sift through and identify spam and it has been somewhat successful. Being completely blocked by the site that sends them the most traffic is a harsh blow, but one that has probably been a long time coming. Will they be able to clean up enough to meet Facebook’s new standards? Will bitly fall victim to the same fate if spammers and malware distributors decide to “jmp” ship?
Perhaps most importantly, will anyone create a spam-sniffing program that works with URL shorteners to keep their links clean and secure? If someone does, they would have a high-value piece of code they could sell.