A Brief History Lesson
Back in 2009 I created an open source URL shortener called Z.ips.ME as an alternative to using bit.ly and other services on Twitter. At the time, Twitter counted the characters in a link against your 140 characters, so link shortening was a big deal.
I updated it a few times, the last being in April of 2010, and then…nothing. In 2011 Twitter rolled out their t.co URL shortener, minimizing the usefulness of a project like Z.ips.ME. Every link now counts as 23 characters. We stopped using it internally so it sort of sat around collecting dust from then on, although it did still get downloaded and I would get an email from time to time with questions or feedback.
The Instagram Linking Problem
With that said, we found a new use for it recently. As our Detailed Image Instagram account has grown, the problem of not being able to hyperlink within posts has been an increasing annoyance. What most people do for important links is constantly change the one hyperlink that you do get in your profile. We wanted the ability to have more than one link easily accessible to our users without them having to memorize a potentially long URL.
Years ago we had picked up the short domain dtld.us with the intention of using it for Detailed Image, but had never installed Z.ips.ME on it. The more that we thought about our Instagram problem, the more Z.ips.ME seemed like a simple solution.
A few weeks ago I finished up the new and improved version of Z.ips.ME and installed it on dtld.us. The change log includes quite a few improvements:
- Simpler config file
- Converted to HTML 5
- Upgraded CSS reset
- Aesthetic improvements, including new fonts
- Responsive design
- Improved cookie security
- Improved SQL queries for faster load times
- Improved error messages
- Better statistics – added referring domains, improved browser detection, added % column
I particularly like the new stats page. I spent a lot of time improving the browser, OS, and device detection, which gets interpreted from the user agent string that’s recorded when someone clicks. The result is much improved from the old version.
We recently started incorporating shortened links into our Instagram posts like so:
Instead of detailedimage.com/303-M2/ the link is dtld.us/303, and instead of detailedimage.com/Promo-Restrictions/ the link is dtld.us/Promo. And really, those are two of our shorter links on DI to begin with. Item pages and Ask-a-Pro blog posts are often so long they’d be impossible to memorize.
Ready for Download!
I also refreshed the Z.ips.ME website, updating the aesthetics and implementing a simple HTML 5 responsive design. Version 2.0 is now officially available for download. You’ll need reasonably recent versions of PHP and MySQL to install the new version. If you’ve ever installed WordPress, installation should be familiar and only take a few minutes.
It’s been a while since I’ve worked on any side project like this. It was fun thinking differently, and I’m happy with how it came out.