URL shorteners have become commonplace on the web as a way of making otherwise very long web addresses easily shareable. This was especially important on Twitter when web link characters used to count. Google offered its own URL shortener called goo.gl back in 2009, but the search giant just announced it is shutting down and being replaced.
In a post on the Google Developers blog, Firebase software engineer Michael Hermanto explains that the way we find content on the Internet has changed quite dramatically since 2009. Sitting at a PC clicking links with a mouse has been joined/replaced by tapping on screens, using mobile devices, home assistants, and apps. A simple URL shortener no longer works in 2018.
From April 13, 2018 no new short links can be created using goo.gl by anonymous or new users. Existing users, meaning anyone who has already created goo.gl short links, will be able to continue using all features of the service until March 30, 2019. After that, the service is discontinued, but all existing short links will continue to work.
Google’s replacement for goo.gl is Firebase Dynamic Links (FDL). They are a much more advanced form of deep linking, which allow a link to be automatically tweaked depending on who the user is, where they link from, and what hardware they are using. The same FDL link will work on desktop, mobile, even from within an app. The user experience will be seamless while behind the scenes the correct destination will be chosen at the time of the click, tap, or voice command.
For developers, there’s FDL APIs to take advantage of which incorporate the automatic detection of a user’s platform and direct them to the appropriate destination. If you’re a developer using goo.gl, only projects accessing the goo.gl URL shortener API will continue to have access to the service beyond May 30, 2018. The same cut off of March 30, 2019 applies, though.
Although Google is encouraging FDL as a replacement for goo.gl, it’s not the only alternative. If you want to continue using a simple URL shortener, then Google recommends switching to Bitly or Ow.ly as an alternative.