The Personal URL Shortener, Revisited

Back in 2013 I wrote shrtn, a super-simple Personal URL Shortener that I've been using happily ever since. As I wrote back then:

[It's] a simple perl script that captures (or generates) a mapping
between a code and a URL, records it in a simple text db, and then
generates a static html file that uses HTML meta-redirects to point
your browser towards the URL.

This has a few features I really like:

  • It's a command line utility that is just a git clone away on any linux or mac box, so it's portable and private (no web interface that I have to authenticate to use).

  • New slug => url mappings are automatically captured to git and can be pushed to multiple remote repos for backup e.g.

  • It can handle custom slugs (so, for instance), or it can generate random slugs for you.

The fact that it uses HTML meta-redirects lets you use any simple static web hosting you like - no dynamic content support (PHP, javascript etc.) is required.

That said, there are a few drawbacks with the HTML-META-redirect approach:

  • HTML META redirects work well with real browsers, but spiders and bots tend not to handle them. (This may be a feature, of course, depending on your point of view.) It would be nicer to use proper HTTP redirects instead, though.

  • Static webspace is cheap, but it's not free, and it's not trivially simple to setup and configure. There are plenty of providers that will give you a small VPS for $5/month that will do just fine for this, but that's still $60/year, and there's still the work of actually configuring a webserver properly and copying the html pages up, etc.

  • The web has moved on in the last 5 years, and there are now lots of interesting "cloud" options available that give us a lot of functionality for less, and are perhaps simpler to setup and maintain because they do more of the heavy-lifting for us. We can do better! :-)

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