Without A Net | Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Whack those little links

Hark, oh neophyte Tweeters! Is that link to another video of a cat on a Roomba just a few letters over the 140-character limit? There is hope, young Twits: a website called TinyURL will shorten your horrifically long, Lovecraftian string of letters, symbols and numerics to a fraction of its former girth.

Essentially, it redirects that short link on its directory to the original long link's destination. Other link-shortening sites, like bit.ly (not to be confused with mitt.ly), have increased in use, but TinyURL has been around since January 2002. After eight years, there's a deluge of TinyURLs, and like all Internet innovations, somebody got bored.

Thus was TinyURL Whacking born.

All TinyURL short links start with the service's website - http://tinyurl.com/ - followed by random letters and numbers assigned when the long link is shortened. Since the database is solvent, if someone tries to make a new short link to a site someone had submitted before, the short link will be identical to when it was first made.

Said bored users quickly found that, without rhyme or reason for the letters and numbers following an address, inputting random leters and numbers after the backslash in 'http://tinyurl.com/' will link to a truly random site. Voila! An Internet treasure hunt.

Some websites sprouted around the phenomenon automating the already easy game (although this site offers a randomizer of purely twitpic sites off of Twitter).

Here's one to start you off:


Possibly the first site to use TinyURL (with the 'a' character), it's a mostly broken site with what appears to be Swedish (according to Google translate): Beskriv varför du vill anmäla omdömet (ej obligatoriskt) = "describe why you want to report reputation optional."

Hmm. The lesson here: fewer characters after the backslash mean older links. Average links now have seven characters after the link, providing a wealth of random character options.

Bonus game: enter your name after the backslash for "Vanity TinyURL."

My result: Chinese photographer David Hsieh.

Hmm... perhaps those post-backslash characters can be guided (bottom links NSFW) after all...