3.ly: World’s Shortest Url for Short Urls

You knew it would happen. In a world of people posting links to links and URLs to URLs, a market has emerged to create shorter URLs. Tinyurl.com has been the forerunner in the field, but many others exist. These are all sites that create a short URL that will redirect to another, presumably longer one. It’s a forwarding service.

In an effort to glean a corner of the short URL market someone decided to make it as short as possibly- 3.ly. That’s it, the entire domain name. For instance, I submitted the name of this site and it created 3.ly/slapstart (since removed…), which now forwards to slapstart.com. In this example I selected a custom extension, otherwise it would have chosen the shortest combination of letters and numbers possible.

3.ly Home

Surprisingly, there’s some controversy with domain name shorteners and in some cases they’re even banned. The trouble revolves around people using them to submit banned sites on comment boards. The hazards are fairly obvious to envision seeing as how you have no idea where you might end up when you click the link. This article outlines some common usage and pitfalls of URL shorteners.

A note of curiosity regarding the 3.ly domain name itself, the .ly extension belongs to the country Libya. The domains are managed by Nic.ly and can be purchased through a certified reseller. Overall it appears to be a valid process, though I can’t shake the feeling of walking through a third world market trying to keep my wallet away from some guy’s pet monkey. The annual fee is ~$75/yr.

The other curious note about their domain is the 3. Try to register 3.com and it will tell you it’s an invalid domain. Apparently they lowered the bar for the .ly extension to a single character.

3.ly is taking a stab at a market that’s already a couple hundred competitors full. So much for being first to the marketplace. But, they do have the whizbang about them in that they truly have a short URL. Perhaps their biggest problem is that is doesn’t look like a URL at all. Unless you’re familiar with running from monkeys in the Mideast.

SlapBack: (Pleasantries…) Would you consider appending an ‘update’ to your article regarding Threely and its current, latest features?

Yes, I’ll consider writing an update to the article based upon latest features. In fact, here it is, though I fear all is not well in the 3.ly camp. Mainly, confusion! But let’s trudge through it and see what we find. There are two new features, and a third on the way. Sounds like kids. Now let’s see how well they’re behaved.

Kid number 1: We’ll call him Jimmy. Jimmy is a piece of Javascript that you click and drag into the URL of a different web page. Once loaded the new Jimmyized (or Javascriptized) URL will immediately create a Threely. If this sounds confusing, it is. It’s certainly neat and I had no idea you could drag and drop Javascript snippets from a webpage without cutting and pasting. I’m guessing many others do not as well, or even get what just happened there. So, the user now has two options to create 3.ly’s. First, copy and paste the URL into 3.ly’s box and submit the form. Second, the new click and drag Bookmarklet, aka, Jimmy. My thoughts are this would be a great place to put a short video screen capture that demonstrates how to use the new tool. I got it to work but I have a feeling I didn’t do it right.

Kid number 2: Sam. Sam’s the boring kid- a bean counter. He’s the type that keeps updated and accurate records, sits in the front of class in school, organizes his pen collection. He’s useful to have around though. Let’s say you’d like to know how many people clicked on your Threely. That’s where Sam comes in. Just add a dash “-” to the end of it and it takes you to a page that shows just that. For example, the Threely I created for this post 3.ly/slapstart (since removed…), will now show how many times 3.ly/slapstart has been clicked. It’s actually pretty helpful and gives you a mild sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Sam does have one quirk resonate of his older brother. It says, “Click anywhere on this page to disable page auto reload. ” What on God’s green earth do we need that for? Neat little feature. Cut it and keep it simple. Or at least create a button that says Auto Reload On/Off all artisically dolled up so you call tell whether it’s pressed on not.

Kid number 3: The ultrasound is in, and it’s a girl! Her mother insists on calling her Jessica. It’s hoped that Jess will be the social one. Bring some flair to the family. With her will come user accounts, threely tracking, amongst other features. This is actually helpful, seeing as how I just created a few new test Threely’s as I’ve long since lost the previous ones. Tracking will probably be a more elaborate form of Sam’s add a dash method to view how many times a Threely’s been clicked.

Unwanted Cousin: Holga. Little is known about Holga except that she exists. For those who want more information you can email Threely support. It’s been rumored that she has something to do with a developer API, though no other information is available about her.

As most of us know, if there are issues with the kids, it’s often not the kids, but the parents. In this case, these features are fairly nifty. As a tech enthusist, I applaud them. My concern is that bells and whistles (kid analogy is starting to break down here), need to be just that. 98% of all Threely users are going to go to the home page, enter the URL, get the Threely, and go about their day. I know development’s still in progress, but whenever you get around to it my plea is to make sure to graphically represent the kids as appropriate. I.e. small and out of the way. Currently, they distract and overwhelm as they take up so much space on the page. My off the cuff would say to put Jimmy and Sam on a different page titled, “Extras.” Jessica can be a little more prominent. I’ll defer to a UI designer figure out the best way to incorporate them. In broad general terms, I’m thinking the Google home page design will work for you.

SlapBack: Yes I agree with your points, but it is nowhere near to finalization/completion.  The interface and complete user experience will be ‘upgraded’ soon, I’ll let you know when it happens.

  • Sardar Mohkim Khan

    Thanks a lot for the link back, much appreciated.

  • Andrej

    Hey Steve! I tried to compile a list of three-letter URL shorteners – at the moment I am at seven, so 3.ly is by no means the only contestant: http://asalko.blogspot.com/2009/05/three-shortest-url-shortners-in-world.html

    1. Steve

      Hi Andrej,

      Great list! I have a feeling 3.ly still produces the shortest urls over is becaus it’s still very new and the shorter extensions are still available. Thanks for sharing that with me.


  • Norma

    I like Threely the best out of all of them. It is full-featured, super short, and it doesn’t sound like ‘g’ dot ‘t’ ‘d’ , it’s just Threely! From their preview page it is evident thay (used to have) threely.com, 3ly.com and even three.ly as ‘mirror links’, I tried going to threely.com and vioala I ended up at http://www.3.ly/ … It’s MUCH easier to use the alternate / optional mirror links when telling someone the address verbally.

    I like Threely and use it everyday for twitter and emailing. I even use the term “Threely” now instead of “shortened url”. At the end of the day use what you prefer but I think Threely has something here.


    1. Steve

      Thanks Norma. I’ve been using it too.

  • Tiffany


    I love the way that you write about the sites. It makes it easy for the less tech savy of us to understand. This style is very refreshing and helpful information.

  • memest

    go.af is one of the shortest shortener URL in the world. (it’s now not working…)

  • AFF – Threely – World’s Shortest URL For Short URLs : Websites Explained

    […] https://www.vyteo.com/2009/06/3ly/ […]

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