The real-time push in online systems has attracted a new fan: Bit.ly. The URL shortening service has unveiled plans to turn its torrent of Twitter shortened URLs into a refined flow of news. Clever. And it'll make money too.
Bit.ly is not, currently, an Internet service you really see much of—usually it does it's URL magic for a brief moment or two up there in the address bar of your browser when you click on one of its short Web addresses. If you blink, you probably won't notice what's going on. Nevertheless, bit.ly, and it's host of copycat services, perform a vital service for Twitter, shortening URLs to fit inside the 140 character Tweet limit, and a useful service when you need to share a Web page address via a quick email, IM, or SMS.
This is where it gets interesting though: Bit.ly's general manager Andrew Cohen, in a discussion with Wired, said the company was absolutely not going to generate its own revenues from advertising—echoing what Biz Stone has already outlined for Twitter's business plan. Instead bit.ly is going to add some clever code that will sift through the billion or so click-throughs the company gets each month and then automatically detect the most interesting or important links. And when it's compiled this data into a list, it'll effectively generate a hybrid hot-topic/trending topic/live news feed, and one that's crowdsourced in real time.
If you think about it, it's the perfect plan...simply through the way the service works, a megaton of prime news-related data is sleeting through bit.ly every minute. That's the real-time data mojo that Twitter's trying to tap into with its new page redesign and search engine, and that Google would desperately love to get involved in.
As if that's not enough, there's a lot more analytical value available in that stream of shortened URLs, and Cohen suggested the company will also charge for access to this deeper data—a marketer's dream data source. That too echoes a plan espoused by Stone for the revenue-earning future of Twitter. Do you spot a pattern here? Maybe there really is fire behind the smoking rumors of a bit.ly buy-out by Twitter.