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Shorter URL Links Magnify Content Abuse Problems

A huge proportion of shortened links are just a disguise for spam, and the practice deprives publishers of analytics information about their visitors, experts suggest.

Thanks to the popularity of Twitter and its 140-character constraint on tweets, Web-link shortening services like TinyURL.com and bit.ly, which compress lengthy URLs into a handful of alphanumeric characters, have become all the rage.

Late last month, bit.ly raised $2 million in funding. And shortly thereafter, Digg launched the DiggBar, a content-sharing and linking tool that includes URL shortening.

Though there are good things to be said about abbreviated URLs, most of the discussion related to the topic over the past week has focused on the bad things about URL shortening and about the DiggBar.

On its Web site, Digg explains that the DiggBar "enables you to Digg, read comments, find related content, and share stuff from any page on the Web. And it's presented in a short URL format, making it easy to share in emails, on Twitter, and via other services."

Greg Boser, president and CEO of 3 Dog Media, a search engine marketing consultancy, proposed an alternate definition in a blog post on Thursday: "The DiggBar is an incredibly clever framejacking tool disguised as a URL shortening service. The mass adoption of the DiggBar by the thousands of users who constantly distribute un-digg-worthy content through our most feared competitor [Twitter], will allow us to generate millions of additional revenue dollars by injecting our ads in between our feared competitor and the destination URL."

Framejacking is the long-discredited practice of hijacking Web site content through the use of HTML frames. Before Web content was easily embedded, framejacking provided a way to run ads against someone else's content and collect revenue.

John Gruber, who runs the Daring Fireball blog, has posted PHP code to block the DiggBar. He explains that rather than redirecting users, as most URL-shortening services do, the DiggBar frames the content of the original site.

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