Idea: preview service for URL shorteners

I was using my iPhone to read my Twitter feed (Twitterrific) and Facebook and when comparing the two, I liked one thing about Facebook that Twitter/Twitterific does not have: when some one posts a URL, you get a preview icon and a short text. This way you can have a rough idea of what the link is about, and whether or not you’re interested to click it. In Twitter it is even worse, since the service uses URL shorteners (bitly, …) so that you don’t even have the original URL to guess what the link is about, like e.g. youtube.com/watch?… => it’s a video!

So imagine that there is a service that accepts a URL as input and comes back with

  • a destination URL (the actual URL you end up on)
  • a summary text (short text) about this page
  • a preview (small image) of this page

So for a YouTube video, it comes back with a video screenshot and the video comments, for a blog post that includes a video/image, it comes back with a thumbnail for that and the start of the blog post text.

Most importantly, for shortened URLs, it comes back with a preview of the ‘real’, original URL.

A Twitter client like Twitterific, Tweetie, Tweetdeck, … could use this service every time it encounters a (shortened) URL in a tweet, and add the thumbnail next to it, and maybe the summary text as a mouse-over window.

Coming up with the metadata

Creating a summary text: either based on the web page itself, the META description, if it’s a blog, the first X words of the RSS item in its feed that points to this page.

Creating a preview thumbnail: for YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo: a video screenshot, for Flickr, Picasaweb: an image thumbnail, for Wikipedia: an image that is used in the article or just the Wikipedia favicon, for a corporate site: the web site thumbnail as created by e.g. thumbalizr.

Extend it with even more metadata

This might be an interesting service to run for Google: they could add some indicator of importance or trustworthiness (Pagerank, incoming links), or warn for shady URLs.

3 thoughts on “Idea: preview service for URL shorteners”

  1. Had the same idea of implementing a simple URL-unshortener as an exercise on Google Appengine, never got around it.
    As for the metadata part, I think http://www.oembed.com/ should get you a long way already?
    (it doesn’t generate page descriptions nor thumbnails itself however – only if the site of origin has implemented an api for that)

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