This article was written in 2013. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.
Today I asked on Twitter if anybody knows the reason why t.co exists. I got some answers. It seems that t.co exists to
- obfuscate readable URLs (http://t.co/SjmjqOP2Tc is harder to understand than http://vasilis.nl/)
- make short URLs longer (http://t.co/SjmjqOP2Tc is longer than http://vasilis.nl/)
- make the web slower (It will take time to redirect from http://t.co/SjmjqOP2Tc to http://vasilis.nl/, especially when t.co is slow(again))
- break the web (t.co does not always work. And will it work forever?)
- track what you click on (without openly doing anything with that data)
- track popular clicks (without openly doing anything with that data)
- protect us from harmful links
Twitter says this
On the t.co site you can find this cryptical sentence.
Twitter uses the t.co domain as part of a service to protect users from harmful activity, to provide value for the developer ecosystem, and as a quality signal for surfacing relevant, interesting Tweets.
I don’t know what
to provide value for the developer ecosystem means. As far as I know Twitter has successfully destroyed a once healthy developer eco system. T.co is as valuable to a developer ecosystem as one raindrop is for a desert.
quality signal for surfacing relevant, interesting Tweets is a result of Twitter not understanding its own service. We know how to surface relevant, interesting Tweets. We do so by following relevant and interesting people. This works. I don’t want more relevant and interesting Tweets, I chose my own volume.
The only reason that seems to make some sense is the idea of protecting users from harmful activity. This is a nice service. People tend to do silly things, not everybody is a security expert. Far from it. Most people really don’t get it. So it is a very good thing that Twitter protects these people. The thing is, Twitter doesn’t need t.co to detect scams. It could easily just delete tweets with fraudulent URLs.
So that leaves us with no reason for t.co. Unless you know a good one that I forgot.