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And now for another announcement in the white-hot world of....URL shortening? Yep. In the second URL shortener announcement this week, bit.ly (news, site) is announcing that its bit.ly Pro service, which lets organizations set up custom short domains, is now going to be free. 

Use the Same Shortener as the Dalai Lama

According to the bit.ly blog, the custom URL shortener has been available since December 2009 and is being used for more than 10,000 short domains, ranging from "gat.es (The Gates Foundation), diddy.it, (Diddy), dalaila.ma (His Holiness the Dalai Lama), and cart.mn (South Park Studios)," the company says.

Now, the company is bringing bit.ly Pro out of beta, plus making it available to everyone so "every bitly user can set up a custom short domain from within their bitly account settings, free of charge and with no waiting period."

Why is Bit.ly Doing This?

Bit.ly says it's doing this "to make our white label service available to as many of our users as possible." While that's certainly magnanimous and altruistic of them, there's probably more to it than that.

First, bit.ly has been a bit bereft ever since Twitter quit using it as its default URL shortener last year. There was some talk about Yahoo! or Google acquiring the company, but it's not happened thus far.

Then, Twitter released its own URL shortener, which while it doesn't do analytics, offers the additional feature of showing part of the link, so you know where the shortened URL might be sending you. This is one of several moves Twitter has made lately that is causing third-party vendors to be afraid the service is cutting them out. 

(Earlier this week, Bizo announced its own URL shortener, but it's probably safe to say that this wasn't a huge factor in bit.ly's decision.)

According to Econsultancy (itself a bit.ly Pro user):

It's clear that the company's move here is designed to preserve the company's position in the URL shortening space as the company faces increasing competition. After all, with Twitter, for instance, automatically shortening URLs on its own, independent players like Bitly could find themselves marginalized."

URL shorteners aren't used to only to save space -- they’re used to track and extend their brands and key messages across platforms. Even though we're also seeing research showing that Twitter doesn't drive traffic as much as we think, every little bit helps.