The Readability URL shortener

I’ve written before on how reading for the web is changing for the better. We’re seeing new tools and services that take away the cruft from web pages and help us get to the content on our own terms. Readability is one of the services leading the charge. It provides a browser plugin (and a plain bookmarklet) that will present a web page in a beautiful clean layout with quiet background colors and clean, crisp fonts.

A few weeks ago Readability announced a satellite service in the form of a URL shortener called This service not only shortens the URL but also injects some JavaScript that places an unobtrusive bar at the bar at the top of the page that gives you a link the cleaned up, readability version of the site. Even though I dislike the idea of a URL shortener in general (I would like to see where I am going, thank you very much) I think is actually a good complement to Readability


The implementation is well done and I really like the fact that they don’t automatically apply the Readability view for you. A growing number of websites out there are actually well designed and I like being able to see the variety and creativity. However for the times that I do want something cleaner does a really good job. I think the service caches the Readability view version of the page because it seems to load faster than applying the browser plugin. I like the feeling that Readability is actively trying to make the web reading experience better for me and giving me the control I need to customize my experience. I am starting to use Readability even for reasonably well-designed sites (if the font is too small or the colors seem off). But that’s a personal preference and I’m glad that keeps that decision in my hands.

One thing that I do think is lacking with is integration with Twitter clients. If (and by extension, Readability) is going to make a dent in the URL-shortening game it needs popular Twitter clients to offer it as an option. I don’t know of any clients that actually do offer it at this point, but I would really love to see it available. As someone who wants to help the reading revolution along I would rather use than or any of the others (since I don’t really care about “tracking” who visits my shortened links). So if you’re working on a Twitter client (or know someone who is) please have as a URL shortening option.

I have to admit that I haven’t actually used myself. I don’t share that many links via Twitter and I prefer posting the full URL if I can. If it’s too big I generally just use default shortener because it’s faster and I have more important things to do than a copy-paste dance. I’m sure there are a lot more people like myself who are casual linkers on Twitters and will go for the default, least resistance option. That’s why getting into Twitter clients is essential. is one of those services that fulfills a nice little niche and does it well enough that you don’t have to write long pieces detailing its functionality. It’s a simple tool that does one thing well and makes the UNIX user in me happy. The next time you need to shorten a URL and don’t mind doing some copy-pasting, is highly recommended.

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