In a not so surprising move, Google finally released a URL shortener. To start, it is available in the Google Toolbar as well as Feedburner. This will likely spell doom for TwitterFeed unless they come up with some seriously interesting features. Earlier in the day, Facebook decided it wanted to get in on the analytics game as well, so it is now testing its own URL shortener, fb.me. This becomes more interesting as you see the potential identity implications. Take a look at my Facebook account (yes, that is an fb.me URL). This short URL is pure gold as everyone already uses “Facebook me” when asking for quick network updates. But including basic URL shortening means that Facebook wants a piece of the URL sharing pie and more analytics data.

Not to be outdone, as well as to defend themselves, Bit.ly announced the availability of Bit.ly Pro.

As part of our initial beta program, we’re making custom URLs available to a limited number of large and medium-sized Web publishers and bloggers.

The basic additions are more analytics, but it has a very limited distribution and lacks some detail as well. I have a feeling that this is possibly released earlier than they wanted.

The interesting part of this is that everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room, Twitter. Twitter basically defined the need for URL shortening, regardless of how handy it really is. People have wondered why Twitter has not created a shortener of their own. The reason is that it did not make any business sense until now. Twitter announced the contributor feature test recently, and put services like CoTweet and HootSuite on notice.

The feature we are beta testing is called ‘Contributors’ – it enables users to engage in more authentic conversations with businesses by allowing those organizations to manage multiple contributors to their account. The feature appends the contributor’s username to the tweet byline, making the business to consumer communication more personal

This coincides with the various rumors of corporate accounts for Twitter, and also shows that 2010 will be the year of Twitter for business ideas and hopefully non-ad revenue. Interestingly enough, you will notice that Twitter is putting the contributor’s username in a byline, and not using the ^RD style. Again, this is Twitter gathering more metadata per tweet.

What does Twitter’s contributor feature have to do with URL shortening? Nothing right now, but the push towards corporate accounts means that more services will be offered. Twitter could easily create their own URL shortener and enforce its use regardless of whether it is shortening a bit.ly URL or a regular URL. Obviously, Twitter could also track every URL and place them into metadata on the tweet as well. Tracking each URL and providing interesting analytics would be a huge service for businesses, as well as the ability to provide analytics for tracked keywords and searches.

Twitter is moving in a very interesting direction, and is definitely looking to capture more data. Facebook is continuing to play catchup, but its massive user population keeps it on everyone’s mind. Google is not willing to give up this fight easily, but is definitely struggling to find a path. Bit.ly needs to provide more advanced services or they could quickly be replaced. This fight is just getting started, and we will likely see new services appearing from all of these companies in the new year. 2010 looks like the year for analytics. The question is what else these companies provide to businesses?

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