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A URL shortener utilizing IDN domains and Unicode to make very short URLs
Ruby JavaScript
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What is menosgrande?

menosgrande is a URL shortener. It uses some tricks such as IDN domains and Unicode paths to exploit the way that Twitter counts characters (spoiler: by normalized Unicode code points) in order to make extremely short URLs.

Why use menosgrande?

Use menosgrande when space is at a premium and you need to make the shortest URL possible. Alternatively, you could use menosgrande when you are bored with those tired old base-62 ASCII URL shorteners and want to spice up your life with some fun Unicode characters.

Why did you bother with this?

This was more of a learning experience for me as this is my first Ruby on Rails application. I am basically using it as a proof-of-concept for employers that I have the competency to code Ruby on Rails, not that this application is some amazing feat of engineering (I'm well aware it's a pretty simple application).

In addition, I agree with the common sentiment that programmers need to move beyond thinking of characters as raw bytes of ASCII. I'm hoping that this application can push that idea forward, in its own, very small way, by making Unicode usage more public.

Why not use / Caveats

Some applications still do not play nicely with Unicode, unfortunately. In the worst case, the application might simply refuse to work with a menosgrande link, possibly by crashing or behaving strangely. A more mild annoyance is the fact that Twitter will sometimes not make the full URL path (after the /) hyperlinked, even though it is a valid IRI.

Also, there is no guarantee users seeing the shortened link will see a pretty grapheme like the Unicode code chart shows for that codepoint. This is dependent on what fonts are installed on the end-user's PC. This doesn't affect the actual shortening process, as the user will simply see a rectangular box with the hex code value of the Unicode code point if they don't have a font for it. menosgrande doesn't mind this, as the raw bytes are still passed to it correctly for decoding. Twitter doesn't mind either, and will still treat it as a single character, for the same reason.

Where can I learn more?

I did a short writeup on my blog about how I wrote this application, if you want to know more about it.

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