bitly basics: Getting started

What is bitly? up

bitly is a utility that allows users to shorten a long URL, share it, and then track the resulting usage. For example, you can turn this link: Into this link: It's much easier to include the link in an email or Twitter post without it breaking or taking up space. To see how many clicks that link has gotten and explore other info, simply append a plus sign to the end of the url:

How does bitly work? up

bitly works by issuing a "301 redirect": a technique for making a webpage available under many URLs. When you shorten a link with bitly, you are redirecting a click from bitly to the destination URL. A 301 redirect is the most efficient and search engine-friendly method for webpage redirection, and is what bitly uses. Because bitly doesn’t re-use or modify links, we consider our redirects to be permanent.

How do I use bitly to shorten a link? up

We offer a variety of ways for users to shorten links -
  • Use the form on http://bit.ly as you would any other URL shortener
  • Use the browser bookmarklet that you can drag (in Firefox) or right-click->Add to Favorites (in Internet Explorer) to your bookmark bar from the right side of the bitly home page
  • Use the bitly browser sidebar that is also available on the bitly home page
  • Prefix any long URL in your browser's address bar (including the "http://") with "bit.ly/" and be redirected to the main bitly page with the link automatically shortened for you
  • Use one of the many desktop and mobile applications that integrate directly with bitly
  • Use the bitly API (http:/bit.ly/apidocs) to integrate bitly programmatically into your own applications and workflows
Links shortened with any of these methods will appear in your Userx History if you are logged into bitly when you create or use them.

How do I close my bitly account? up

We don't currently support the closing of bitly accounts. But you can easily archive individual URLs from your history or simply stop using our service.

How do I log in with Facebook or Twitter? up

To log in with Facebook or Twitter for the first time, just click the appropriate icon from the logged-out bitly home page. If you are not currently logged in to your Facebook or Twitter account, you will be prompted to log in to that account. Once you are logged in to your Facebook or Twitter account, you will be asked to either associate that account with an existing bitly account or to start a new bitly account. Once you have a Facebook or Twitter account associated with your bitly account, you can then log in to bitly with a single click!

I wanted to connect my Facebook or Twitter account to an existing bitly account, but I accidentally created a new bitly account! How do I fix this? up

First, disconnect your Facebook or Twitter account from the new bitly account’s settings page. You can then either start the process over from the logged-out homepage and choose to associate that Facebook or Twitter account with an existing bitly account, or connect that Facebook or Twitter account from your existing bitly account’s settings page.

bitly basics: Sharing and managing links

How can I share a bitly link? up

There are a few different ways to share a bitly link:
  • From your History area, click "Share" below any bitly link (or on any info page) to share that link.
  • You can also share via Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, and your default email client.
  • Use the bitly info bookmarklet to share a link while you are on a page (view the bitly bookmarklets here: http://bit.ly/pages/tools).
Note: bitly links are great for sharing because they won't break in emails and they never expire.

Can I edit/change my bitly link? What if I email you and ask nicely? up

bitly links cannot be edited. They also do not expire and cannot be changed, so they will always redirect to the site for which they were originally created. It's always a good idea to check that your long URL and/or custom name are correct before creating, sharing, or printing your bitly links.

Can I delete a bitly link? up

We believe that being a legitimate shortening service means offering permanent URLs. Our users can feel confident that the bitly links they create don't unexpectedly disappear or expire.

How do I remove or archive links from my bitly History page? up

You can remove a bitly link from your history by opening the Options drop down menu and selecting the Archive link from the choices there (the other choices are Share, Copy, and Edit). Remember that links archived from your public history are still permanently functional and will always redirect to their original destination. Note: for some related bitly basics, see: http://bit.ly/Ovnvf

Does bitly ever re-use links? up

No. Each link bitly issues is unique and will not be re-used, so you can be confident users will arrive at the correct site. Some URL shorteners issue links that are a character shorter than bitly. But those links get re-used because there is an upper limit to the number of character combinations.

What about "link rot" - what happens to my links if bitly goes down or goes away? up

We maintain a highly reliable, redundant system with the goal of making our service - especially existing links - available at all times. We are also in the process of developing an archive system to make sure that bitly links are available beyond our systems.

Can anyone see my bitly links? up

Individual links are permanent by design and are always publicly accessible. You can see your list of publicly viewable links under the Public Timeline link in the Manage tab. This list of your bitly links is available to the public at http://bit.ly/u/[your username]. While the list is public by default, you can turn off access to this list in the Account section of site by clicking on your name and adjusting the settings.

Can viruses get spread through bitly links? up

While most people use bitly for valid reasons, people can abuse the service and spread a virus through a bitly link. Rest assured that our team works hard to prevent abuse. If you think a virus is being spread or notice bitly being used for spam purposes, please submit the questionable bitly URLs through the form at http://bit.ly/a/report_spam and someone will look into it soon.

What's the difference between bit.ly, bitly.com and j.mp? up

bitly gives you the option of creating short links that start with bit.ly, bitly.com, j.mp, or your own custom short domain. You can choose a default short domain in your bitly account settings or on the front page of bitly.com, which will apply not only to shortens made on bitly.com, but to shortens made using 3rd party clients with your bitly account as well. No matter which short domain you choose, the link you created will appear in your user history for easy sharing and tracking.

bitly basics: Using bookmarklets

bitly offers two bookmarklets - what's the difference? up

We offer different bookmarklets for different scenarios:
  • The "sidebar" bookmarklet has a slide-out panel from which you can share and see info about the page in question.
  • The "bitly" bookmarklet redirects you to the bitly homepage, and let's you include highlighted content with the bitly link in a Twitter post.
See the Tools section for more details: http://bit.ly/pages/tools.

How does the bitly sidebar bookmarklet work? up

The bitly sidebar bookmarklet makes it easy to shorten URLs on any webpage. It also reveals related link Traffic, Conversations, and History. You can also share your bitly link on Twitter, Gmail, Email, and Facebook. Check out this page for complete details: http://bit.ly/pages/sidebar.

What are the Conversations on the info Page and sidebar bookmarklet? up

The Conversations section of the info page shows posts on Twitter and other social sharing web sites that contain bitly links. Conversations also show the number of comments found on the page. For example, if a bitly link points to a blog post that has three blog comments, those comments will appear in the Conversations section.

I'm having problems using the bookmarklet with Internet Explorer - what should I do? up

Keep in mind that dragging the bookmarklet to the toolbar only works in Firefox. If you are using Internet Explorer, try right-clicking on the bookmarklet and then clicking "Add to Favorites."

Beyond basics: Capturing data and using metrics

How do I see how many times a bitly link was clicked on? up

Every bitly link has an info page, which reveals the number of related clicks and other relevant data. You can get to the info page in a few different ways. For example, to view the info page for the bitly link http://bit.ly/CUjV - You can also use the the sidebar bookmarklet to instantly get information for your bitly link, or you can see basic information about all of your links on your Manage page.

What do the numbers "x" out of "x" mean next to my links? up

The numbers next to your links might say "8 out of 8" or "14 out of 648," or something else. The top number is the number of clicks that your bitly link specifically generated, for example: 30. The bottom number is the total number of bitly clicks generated for all bitly links created for that URL as a whole, for example: 100. So if you "30 out of 100" next to your link, that means the bitly link you created generated 30 clicks and 70 clicks were generated by other bitly links (from other bitly users) to that URL.

Why does the number on top always match the number of total clicks, even when I'm not the one who was responsible for the clicks? up

The numbers displayed are total decodes (not total click-throughs), which JavaScript measures on the page. Decodes can be caused by bots or applications, like browser plug-ins, which expand the underlying URL without causing a click-through.? If you download a browser plug-in that automatically expands short URLs, for example, it looks a lot like a human user to an analytics program. Absent JavaScript on the page, it's hard to distinguish between a decode and an intentional click-through. Ultimately, bitly complements rather than replaces JavaScript-based analytics utilities such as Google Analytics or Chartbeat.

If someone else shortens the same URL, do we both see the same number of clicks? up

It depends on whether a user is signed in. bitly tracks the total number of clicks pointing to a single long link. Signed-in bitly users receive a unique bitly link that lets them track clicks and other data separately, while still seeing totals for all bitly links pointing to the same long link. But users who are not signed in all share the same bitly link.

Is all bitly tracking data publically available? Where can I view it? up

To learn more about the life of any given bitly url, simply add a "+" sign to the end of that link and you will be directed to a page with that link's statistics.

Why don't my bitly links show up in my server logs? up

bitly uses 301 permanent redirects. That means that the referring site is passed through to your server transparently, which is why you don't see bitly in your logs. This is by design, as it preserves the genuine referring sites, as well as the original page rank.

What do the "Email Clients, IM, AIR Apps, and Direct" data in the info page Traffic Referrers mean? up

Many users click bitly links outside browsers - so the links have no referrer data. This makes it difficult for us to identify which client they are using. Direct traffic includes people clicking bitly links from:
  • Desktop email clients like Microsoft Outlook or Apple mail
  • Adobe AIR applications such as TweetDeck
  • Mobile apps like Twitterific or Blackberry Mail
  • Chat apps like AIM
  • SMS/MMS messages
  • Or any bitly link that is typed directly into a browser
We have a program to register applications with bitly so they will appear as separate, named clients in the Referrer table. If you're interested in becoming a Registered Application with bitly, please fill out this form: http://bit.ly/rVpPK

What is bitly search? up

At the top of the page of the bitly Manage tab is a box where you can search all of the links you shortened through bitly. This is useful for finding all links to a certain type or for remembering links shortened a few weeks ago. The search box is so responsive and handy that you may find yourself shortening URLs just to make them easier to find later!

Beyond basics: Sharing and third-party applications

How do I add/remove my Twitter and Facebook accounts to/from my bitly account? up

  1. First, Log in to your bitly account.
  2. There are two places from which you can manage your sharing services. You can either click on your bitly username near the upper-right-hand corner of the page to go to your account settings (http://bit.ly/a/account), or you can click "Share Settings" beneath the sharing box on the main bitly page.
  3. Choose either the Twitter or Facebook links to the right of "Add Account" to be redirected to the corresponding service. Log in to the account on that service from which you wish to share and click to authorize your bitly account to have OAuth access to that other account. This way you won't ever need to share your Twitter/Facebook credentials with bitly, bitly will remain authorized if you change your Twitter/Facebook password, and you can revoke bitly's access to your Twitter/Facebook account from either your bitly account settings page or Twitter's Connections page / Facebook's Applications page.
  4. Once this process is complete and you are redirected to the bitly site, you can click "Add Account" again to authorize bitly with additional Twitter/Facebook accounts.
  5. Alternatively, click "Remove" next to the account you wish to unlink and that account will be deleted from your list.
  6. To temporarily activate/deactivate sharing from each service, click the "Sharing off"/"Sharing on" links next to each account.

What other applications does bitly work with? up

For details on our partners, check out this page: http://bit.ly/pages/partners/

How do I use bitly with Tweetdeck? up

You can authorize TweetDeck to use your bitly credentials so you get personalized link data. In Tweetdeck, go to Settings/Services and under "bitly" select "Get Your API Key". You must have a bitly account and be signed in to complete the process.

How do I use bitly with Seesmic? up

From Seesmic, select the gear icon found in the bottom left corner. Under Services, select "http://bit.ly" and enter your Username and API Key.

How do I use bitly with Twitterfeed? up

bitly account integration is available from your twitterfeed dashboard: either edit an existing feed or create a new one. Next, choose "Shorten Link Through: bitly" and select "bitly settings." In the fields provided, enter your API Key.

How do I use bitly with Qwitter? up

To integrate your bitly account with Qwitter, open the Qwitter Configuration File (either by running %appdata%\qwitter\qwitter.conf, or from your working directory if running portably). Next, find the line that reads "URLShorten". Beneath it are two statements for the "BitLyLogin" and "BitLyAPIKey." These come with Qwitter's values by default but can be changed if needed.

Beyond basics: Spam and site blocking

How do I report spam in bitly links? up

Please submit the questionable bitly URLs through the form at http://bit.ly/a/report_spam and someone will look into it soon. If you do not have a bitly account, you can just e-mail the bitly link(s) or long URLs to abuse@bit.ly. If there are more than one, it's best to send them one per line in the body of the message.

My site keeps getting flagged as spam - but it's not! What's going on? up

We have a huge stream of people and companies that report offending sites or sites that appear as spam. We respond aggressively to these reports, to avoid the spread of viruses and spam - but we are rarely the ones to flag your content as questionable. bitly strictly shortens URLs and points to sites in a 301 redirect - we host no actual content. If you end up on the bad side of company that funnels data to us (reporting your site as spam/rogue content), you may consistently get flagged. Please investigate who objects to your content, so you can request that they stop flagging you.

Why is my site being blocked? up

bitly uses data from a number of independent sources in addition to its own internal classifiers to determine whether or not destination sites propagate spam, viruses, or other malware. The third party sources include Sophos, Websense, VeriSign, PhishTank, and Google Safe Browsing. When your site is blocked, a warning page is placed between your link and the resulting destination site so that our users feel safe clicking bitly links.

Why is my bitly link being reported as spam? up

Occasionally a bitly community member may report a bitly link as spam. If this happens to you, you may want to review how you are marketing your links. Please contact bitly technical support if your link has been unfairly reported. We can unblock it, but it could be returned to the blacklist by someone from our community that views your marketing efforts as spam or unsolicited.

Should I worry about someone changing the destination of a bitly link so that the link redirects to a malicious website? up

No, all bitly links and custom names are permanent by design. While most people using bitly have good intentions, links can be gateways for spam and malware. That's part of the reason why we don't allow links to be modified after they have been created and shared.

Help! Why is bitly sending me spam? up

You seem to be receiving email from spammers that have included a bitly url in their message - it's not spam coming from bitly. If you receive a spam email that contains a bitly link, please submit that link here so we can address it. Additionally, here are our policies regarding emailing our customers:
  1. We only email people that email us first; usually people that need help with bitly or our API.
  2. bitly is strictly in the business of shortening URLs. We don't spam and are not associated with any of these spammers using our free services.

I've found some bitly spam account on Twitter. What should I do? up

If you are finding spam accounts on Twitter, please send a direct message to http://twitter.com/spam. Be sure to include the usernames of the Twitter accounts. For example: d spam maria200902 toan0920 tuyet4923 vanna9301 More information is available at http://help.twitter.com/forums/10711/entries/18398

Beyond basics: Custom short domains and tracking domains

What is the custom short domain and why do I want one? up

The Custom Short Domain is the domain that takes the place of "bit.ly" in a shortened URL. If you were to use "myname.me" as a custom domain, instead of appearing like this:

bitly.com/bOm096G

your links would appear like this:

myname.me/bOm096G

A custom short domain is a great way to brand your content across the web! For example, the New York Times uses "nyti.ms" as a custom short domain, and TechCrunch uses "tcrn.ch".

How do I set up my custom short domain? up

Using bitly to power your short domain is very easy.

1) Purchase the short domain you'd like to use. This domain can only be used for your shortened URLs. Domai.nr is a great place to begin your search, and 101domain has lots of exotic short domains for sale. Your short domain name needs to be 15 characters or less (including the dot).

2) Tell bitly about your domain. Sign in to your bitly account, go to “settings” from the upper right pull-down menu, (or click here) and enter your short domain under under “Custom Short Domain.”

3) Create a DNS record for your domain. Using the control panel of the host with whom you registered your short domain (101Domain, GoDaddy, etc), set the DNS A Record for your short domain to point to 69.58.188.49. If you are using a subdomain (such as on.wsj.com) as your custom short domain, you can set the CNAME Record for that subdomain to point to cname.bitly.com.

Remember that DNS changes can take up to 24 hours to propagate.

That’s it!

What is the Dashboard Tracking Domain? up

The Dashboard Tracking Domain is the "long domain," owned and controlled by you, for which we will report all click traffic from all bitly users. All click traffic on your tracking domain, including clicks on links that were created by other bitly users, will appear in your dashboard. For example, the tracking domain for The New York Times is "nytimes.com", and the tracking domain for Tech Crunch is "techcrunch.com". You can set up and verify your tracking domain from within your bitly account settings here.

IMPORTANT: The tracking domain cannot be the same as your short domain; however, the short domain can be a subdomain of your tracking domain. For example, if you are using a tracking domain of "foo.com", you could set up a short domain of "z.foo.com".

Can we have multiple custom short domains for one account? up

No. There is a one-to-one mapping between bitly account and Custom Short Domain for bitly Enterprise. If you wish to have multiple Custom Short Domains, you would need to register a different username for each.

Will my custom short domain work with 3rd-party tools? up

Once a Custom Short Domain has been configured for your bitly account, all 3rd-party tools that allow you to enter your bitly username and API key will now shorten URLs with your Custom Short Domain.

Does anything change with how I use the bitly API once I have a custom short domain set up? up

Once a Custom Short Domain has been configured for your bitly account, domains shortened under the associated username and API key will now shorten URLs with your Custom Short Domain. You do not need to change your API key or the way your call the API.

Can my custom short domain be longer than "bit.ly? up

Yes, but we recommend using a short domain with as few characters as possible. Note that the custom domain is currently limited to 15 characters.

Do you have any guidance on how/where to select/research/obtain custom short domains? up

For ideas & suggestions for a short domain based on your brand, try the domain name suggestion service domai.nr. You can also consult the list of top-level domains (TLDs) on Wikipedia for ideas. 101domain.com has a wide selection of short domains available for purchase directly.

Advanced users: API Questions

I'm having problems resetting my API key - what should I do? up

If you have a software firewall running, be sure turn it off and then try resetting your API key. If that is successful, you'll want to also configure the firewall properly to allow bitly or j.mp.? If you are using a newer version of Firefox, check that referrers are set to ON. The newer versions have the default as OFF. ?Lastly, log out and clear your cookies and cache.

Can you help me understand bitly API? up

Here are some handy online resources:Please subscribe to the above API discussion group to receive notifications about future API changes.

Can I use the j.mp API instead of the bitly API? up

Yes, you can use the j.mp just like the bitly api--just make calls to api.j.mp instead of api.bit.ly.

How do I find my API Key? up

Check out this page while logged in to bitly: http://bit.ly/account/your_api_key

What are the API rate limits? How do I request additional access? up

We do not disclose the specifics of our rate limiting procedures at this time, although the limits are high enough for normal use. If you receive error messages from our API, please contact us at support@bit.ly and include in your message your username, API key, and details about how your application is using our API. Please ensure that you are not making unnecessary API calls (i.e. shortening URLs on page load instead of when a user explicitly clicks a 'share' button). Rather than contacting us in anticipation of a high volume of requests, in most cases it is best to wait until you encounter the limits so that we can better understand your specific needs.

Privacy, security and terms of use

How does bitly use cookies and is my privacy safe? up

We're serious about our privacy policy and never disclose or sell your personally identifiable information. We use cookies only in the same, widely-accepted way that Twitter, Facebook and Google use them: to improve our analytics and the tools we can offer our users. For example, many people want to distinguish between total clicks on bitly links and total unique users - a distinction we can't make without cookie data. Please see our privacy policy at http://bit.ly/pages/privacy/ for complete more details.

How can I be sure a bitly link is safe to click on? up

bitly uses data from a number of independent sources in addition to its own internal classifiers to determine whether or not destination sites propagate spam, viruses, or other malware. The third party sources include Sophos, Websense, VeriSign, PhishTank, and Google Safe Browsing. For Firefox and Chrome browser users, we also have a Preview Plugin that allows you to view link details before clicking. If you are a Twitter user, similar preview features are available from Tweetdeck (see a write-up of how it works here).

What are your Terms of Service? up

For the most part, bitly's terms are liberal. The clause restricting commercial use is meant only to prevent companies from charging for bitly's free services. For example, we want to prevent someone from putting a URL-shortening box on their website and charging $5 for every shortened URL. Since bitly is a free utility, we consider that a misuse of our API. The language is in no way meant to discourage businesses from using bitly. Hundreds do every day, including major brands like Google, Starbucks, and CBS. We have a free and open API, which allows you to start using bitly without a contract or any kind of negotiated agreement. If you'd like to pursue a commercial agreement, you can email inquiries@bit.ly, but keep in mind that we're a small team, and that we rarely pursue these kinds of agreements for functionality that's available through the API.

Do you host web content? up

No, bitly does not host any content. We simply provide short URLs that link to content that is hosted elsewhere.

Troubleshooting

I'm having problems signing up for a bitly account - what can I do? up

If you can't seem to sign up, try clearing both your web browser cookies and cache, and try again. If you still encounter the error, capture the following information: Browser type/version, OS, connection type (e.g., home or work, modem or wfi, etc.) plus anything atypical about your set up (e.g., unique firewall). Email our tech support team with these details. It's possible that your issue has already been addressed in the following: "5 Minutes With Rex" - http://bit.ly/Ovnvf

I'm having problems signing into my bitly account - what can I do? up

If you can't seem to sign into your account and you have a software firewall running, turn it off. If that works, configure the firewall properly to allow bitly or j.mp. If you are using a newer version of Firefox, check that referrers are set to ON. The newer versions are releasing it default as OFF. Still having difficulty? Try clearing both your browser cookies and cache. If you still encounter the error, capture the following: browser type/version, OS, connection type (e.g., home or work, modem or wfi, etc.) plus anything atypical about your set up (e.g., unique firewall). Email our tech support team with these details. It's possible that your issue has already been addressed in the following: "5 Minutes With Rex" - http://bit.ly/Ovnvf

I'm getting a "There was a problem posting your request." error message. What should I do? up

This is the message we generate when CSR / crossdomain security checks fail. It could be the result of a bad cookie on your system or perhaps your browser is sending an invalid HTTP_REFERER header. Some of the things we use in our security checks are browser cookies and HTTP request headers. If you are on a machine behind a firewall, it may interfere with some of these and could cause these problems. We need more information to figure this out. Here are some things to share with our tech support team:
  1. Send a list of all installed extensions (Firefox)
  2. Send a screenshot of your browser that shows the full address of the page you are on when you attempt to register
  3. Try using Firefox in Safe Mode (Firefox)
  4. What operating system are you using?
  5. Are you encountering this error when using a computer at work?
  6. Do you know if your work has any sort of firewall in place?
  7. Are you behind a proxy server?

I'm having problems encoding a URL - can you help? up

You may be misusing reserved characters or have a similar problem. Please check out the complete details URL encoding here: http://www.blooberry.com/indexdot/html/topics/urlencoding.htm

Why has my link been flagged? up

Your link has been flagged because it points to a tinyurl. We don't allow that, because people sometimes use it to obfuscate their destination link. Just have your bitly link point directly to your URL.

I'm having problems with my sidebar booklet - any suggestions? up

Try deleting your sidebar bookmarklet, and then re-adding it. To do so, go to bitly and delete your sidebar bookmarklet. Next, re-add the sidebar bookmarklet. You should also try this for j.mp + the j.mp sidebar. You might be logged into bitly and a sidebar that refers to bitly.com or vice versa. Each domain requires a separate login.