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Shortener makes it easy to create shortened URLs for your rails application.

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Shortener

Shortener is a Rails Engine Gem that makes it easy to create and interpret shortened URLs on your own domain from within your Rails application. Once installed Shortener will generate, store URLS and “unshorten” shortened URLs for your applications visitors, all whilst collecting basic usage metrics.


Overview

The majority of the Shortener consists of three parts:

  • a model for storing the details of the shortened link;

  • a controller to accept incoming requests and redirecting them to the target URL;

  • a helper for generating shortened URLs from controllers and views.

Some niceities of Shortener:

  • The controller does a 301 redirect, which is the recommended type of redirect for maintaining maximum google juice to the original URL;

  • A unique alphanumeric code of generated for each shortened link, this means that we can get more unique combinations than if we just used numbers;

  • The link records a count of how many times it has been “un-shortened”;

  • The link can be associated with a user, this allows for stats of the link usage for a particular user and other interesting things;

  • The controller spawns a new thread to record information to the database, allowing the redirect to happen as quickly as possible;

Future improvements:

  • There has not been an attempt to remove ambiguous characters (i.e. 1 l and capital i, or 0 and O etc.) from the unique key generated for the link. This means people might copy the link incorrectly if copying the link by hand;

  • The shortened links are found with a case-insensitive search on the unique key. This means that the system can’t take advantage of upper and lower case to increase the number of unique combinations. This may have an effect for people copying the link by hand;

  • The system could pre-generate unique keys in advance, avoiding the database penalty when checking that a newly generated key is unique;

  • The system could store the shortened URL if the url is to be continually rendered;

  • Some implementations might want duplicate links to be generated each time a user request a shortened link.

Installation

You can use the latest Rails 3 gem with the latest Shortener gem. In your Gemfile:

gem 'shortener'

After you install Shortener run the generator:

rails generate shortener

This generator will create a migration to create the shortened_urls table where your shortened URLs will be stored.

Then add to your routes:

match '/:id' => "shortener/shortened_urls#show"

Usage

To generate a Shortened URL object for the URL “dealush.com” within your controller / models do the following:

Shortener::ShortenedUrl.generate("http://dealush.com")

or

Shortener::ShortenedUrl.generate("dealush.com")

To generate and display a shortened URL in your application use the helper method:

short_url("dealush.com")

This will generate a shortened URL. store it to the db and return a string representing the shortened URL.

Shortened URLs with owner

You can link shortened URLs to an owner, to scope them. To do so, add the following line to the models which will act as owners:

class User < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_shortened_urls
end

This will allow you to pass the owner when generating URLs:

Shortener::ShortenedUrl.generate("dealush.com", user)

And to access those URLs:

user.shortened_urls

Shorten URLs in generated emails

You can register the included mail interceptor to shorten all links in the emails generated by your Rails app. For example, add to your mailer:

class MyMailer < ActionMailer::Base
  register_interceptor Shortener::ShortenUrlInterceptor.new
end

This will replace all long URLs in the emails generated by MyMailer with shortened versions. The base URL for the shortener will be infered from the mailer's default_url_options. If you use a different hostname for your shortener, you can use:

class MyMailer < ActionMailer::Base
  register_interceptor Shortener::ShortenUrlInterceptor.new :base_url => "http://shortener.host"
end

The interceptor supports a few more arguments, see the implementation for details.

Origins

Shortener is based on code from Dealush, for a bit of backstory to Shortener see this blog post.

In The Wild

Shortener is used in a number of production systems:

Doorkeeper - An Event Management Tool

Dealush - A Local shopping Sales Notification Service

If you are using Shortener in your project and would like to be added to this list, please get in touch!

Authors

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