Those of you who use micro-blogging services such as Twitter are probably already familiar with TinyURL, a separate service whose purpose is to take lengthy URLs and shorten them. I've used TinyURL for several years now in a number of ways and have found it to be an invaluable tool. I suspect it is the most widely used service of its kind.
One of the ways I make use of TinyURL is that I use a Firefox plugin for TinyURL that will automatically shorten the URL of a page I'm currently on, or a link that my mouse is currently pointing to, with a right-click of my mouse. This comes in very handy when I want to share links via email. The shortened URL provided by services like TinyURL helps protect the integrity of the link so that when email recipients click on the URL (assuming they use an email client that supports auto-hypertext linking, which most people do nowadays), it will function properly.
This capability is useful in any number of other ways. One recent example I encountered is when I was working with a Word document in which I needed to embed hundreds of very lengthy URLs. I quickly discovered that there appears to be a field length limit for adding hypertext links in the version of Word I have available. This meant that most of the URLs I used were getting truncated, rendering them useless. After casting around for solutions to the problem, and finding no easy way to change or expand the field character limit in Word itself, I decided to use a URL shortening service. TinyURL was my old standby, but I quickly found out that it has its limitations. I decided to see what other, similar services are out there. I stumbled across a useful comparison chart of several of these services here. (And there are more even that what is listed on that site.)
I decided to give SnipURL a try. I was glad I did. This service has many more useful features than TinyURL. I am able to manage multiple SnipURLs in a much more efficient and easy way, including the capability to export all URLs into Excel on-the-fly. I can readily track statistics for how often each URL is clicked on. I can search among all of the URLs I've used in a variety of ways, plus I can get a number of different RSS feeds relating to them to help track, for instance, what are my popular snips. The entire service is free.
One major concern I have about SnipURL, TinyURL, and other such services relates to their stability and longevity. Many of these services guarantee that shortened URLs will last forever, but that's a tenuous claim at best for any commercially available service. A few days ago there was an interesting article in Slashdot that asked much the same question but took it even further. Basically the author pointed out the increasing popularity of such services and asked whether they might someday create a single point of weakness if or when they crash or go out of business altogether. Food for thought.