Jacob Gube aka @sixrevisions graciously illuminated yesterday’s Twitter search mystery:
@sophiedennis Maybe because URL of the article has /content-strategy/ on it and it got retweeted a lot this weekend.
I didn’t spot this because the full URL was not visible in the search results. All the tweets use a “short URL” from one of the major URL shorteners instead of the full article link.
So that’s the mystery of the ‘irrelevant’ search results solved. They did match my search term. But only Twitter knew that.
Twitter knew? Now, that is interesting…
The interesting part of this (for a given, geek value of “interesting”) is it shows the Twitter engine tracks the full, expanded URL for shortlinks. And not just from its own native T.co service. Just on this screenshot alone we’ve got TinyURL, Ow.ly, Is.Gd and Bit.ly in addition to T.co links.
This ought to create opportunities for improving both security, and how shortlinks are shown to us, the end-users and readers.
Twitter likes to plug the safety advantages of T.co. With T.co, they tell us, Twitter can easily check the actual destination page for malware, scams and other ‘net nasties and warn you accordingly. If it’s search results are anything to go by these security features should, in theory, extend to malicious content lurking behind shortlinks from any of the major shorteners.
More interesting, though, are the user-interface possibilities. Right now there no way as a Twitter reader to see the full destination URL without clicking on the shortened link. This is a shame. We click on these links largely blind. There are some services - including from the shorteners themselves - which will preview links for you. But it involves moving away from Twitter to another tool. That’s a whole bundle of extra effort most of us won’t bother with.
“New” Twitter already uses the expanded right-hand pane to show additional information about individual tweets: who’s re-tweeted, the context of the conversation and so on. I’d love to see Twitter add full destination URLs here as part of this extra information. This would be a great tool for readers. It would protect us not just from real hard malware, but the whole specturm of undesirable content right the way down to just avoiding wasting clicks on links you’ve already visited.
More about Twitter’s URL shortening (from Twitter.com):