Bitly has rolled out a major overhaul today, expanding its service beyond URL shortening into something that looks like its own social network, with bits of Stumbleupon and Delicious.com in the mix, too.
The update includes a new user interface (with a new fish logo, shown at right), new user profile pages, more visibility for what friends are sharing, a new iPhone app, an improved search tool, better privacy controls and more. Like I said — a major overhaul.
What’s strange, at least to me, is that URL shortening almost seems like an afterthought in the new design. Or, more likely, it’s being purposely played down in favor of the focus on content and sharing. Here’s a look at some of the new features.
Bitly’s New Home Page
Many changes are visible the moment you visit Bitly.com. The focus is no longer on shortening a URL, but on the content that you — and your friends — have already shortened.
Rather than devoting a few hundred pixels to its URL shortening tool, Bitly emphasizes what you’ve already shared — and includes a speedy search box to help locate previously shortened content.
The right column shows recently shortened links from your network — your Facebook and/or Twitter friends, if Bitly knows about them. (Bitly users control that via the Connected Accounts page.)
You can’t actually shorten a link (in Bitly’s traditional sense) right from the home page. The URL shortener is now part of the “Add a bitmark” tool in the upper right of the screen. Rather than just behaving as a URL shortener, Bitly is now focusing on the Delicous.com-like idea of saving bookmarks — or “bitmarks” as Bitly calls them.
Saving & Sharing Links
Bitly has also added some new features related to the individual links that are shortened and saved:
- Users can make saved links private or public (and a new Profile setting can make all links public or private by default).
- Saved links can be shared via email.
- Whether sharing socially or via email, users can include a note to send out with the link.
When you save a bitmark, the short URL is down at the bottom of the screen almost as an afterthought, with the social and sharing options taking center stage. You still can use Bitly just for making short URLs, but you have to go through at least the beginning of this sharing interface just to get the shorter URL.
Bitly Profiles & Analytics
The new Bitly profile is similar to the home page with its focus on content that’s been saved/shortened.
One noticeable change that has some users upset and/or confused is that stats/analytics for each link are no longer visible directly on the home page or the profile page — you have to make an extra click, either to the individual link or to the stats page where all recent links are saved and shown.
Bitly has also announced its first iPhone app, along with a new Chrome extension, new bookmarklet and updates to its Bundles feature.
Add it all together, and this step shows that Bitly wants to be a lot more than just a URL shortening tool. Whether its users want Bitly to be more than that, too, remains to be seen.