We've all been frustrated by long Web addresses, like the one that will get you a recent column of mine: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/davesdownload/archive/070124/atomic
Yuk. That would rarely work in an E-mail, with line breaks messing it up, as we all know from friends and relatives trying to forward Web links that just don't work. So check out www.tinyurl.com, which you may have noticed is behind a lot of the links mentioned in these columns. For example, that nasty Web link above becomes a simple: http://tinyurl.com/377xnx.
The service is free and reliable. TinyURL also offers a plug-in for your browser's toolbar. That makes it as easy as clicking on your toolbar to generate a short URL. Other services, such as www.snipurl.com, offer even more sophisticated tools, such as choosing a keyword at the end, so the link to that column becomes http://snipurl.com/atomicclocks.
The services promise to store the links permanently. Problems can arise, most often when the address of the original Web page gets changed. Also, the services could disappear, as do many Web services, leaving your shortened links in limbo. But TinyURL, for one, appears to be a survivorwith millions of hits, the site is making money for its founder, Kevin Gilbertson, who developed it while a student at the University of Minnesota. He's making enough money that he recently bought a competitor, www.makeashorterlink.com, which reportedly developed the idea even before Gilbertson. But with its shorter address, TinyURL was apparently easier for people to remember, even as it makes it unnecessary for us to remember other, long URLs.