Social sharing services such as Summify allow users to subscribe to a daily digest of stories that have been shared by their Twitter and/or Facebook users in what they call a “summary of your social news feeds.” In the process of tracking shared links on social media platforms, these sharing services are renaming and transforming the shared links. A link to Dave Winer’s article on “Facebook is scaring me” in Summify’s daily summary no longer directly points to Dave Winer’s blogpost, but instead the URL has been renamed to a Summify URL and the blogpost is framed in a Summify toolbar.
By rerouting all hyperlinks through their service they are able to gather statistics on shared stories and track how many times a story has been tweeted, liked and shared, and of course, clicked, which is not visible to users but to Summify only. They are creating data-rich links because the link does not only refer to the location of the source on the web but also carries quantitative metadata and possible affective metadata, think for example of the possible new Facebook intentions of ToRead and Want.Â Short-url services such as Bit.ly operate on the same principle: By transforming hyperlinks they are creating short but data-rich links.
What bothers me, as a researcher, is how this framing of the sharable web may break hyperlink analysis and affect research.
Look for example at the LinkedIn digest which provides me with the “Top Headlines in Internet, Online Media.” LinkedIn also renames the headlines’ URLs into LinkedIn URLs and presents these headlines in a frame with a LinkedIn toolbar on top.
Because LinkedIn renamed the original URL into a data-rich LinkedIn URL, this is the URL we will now be working with, whatever action follows next. This seems disastrous, not only for services such as Delicious, but also for researchers because the original URL will now also be saved (and possibly shared) as a LinkedIn URL, a Summify URL, or any other service that renames URLs. I am a URL purist and I want to save and share the original URL and not a renamed URL but many users will simply share or save the URL they are presented with. This means that tracking the original URL is no longer sufficient for analysis if the URL is also shared and saved as different URLs.
On top of that the LinkedIn URL is either badly formatted or Delicious is not able to interpret it correctly. In any case, attempting to save an article I discovered trough the LinkedIn digest to Delicious is impossible as it attempts to save the generic “http://www.linkedin.com/news?actionBar=”.
Finally, some websites such as the New York Times do not allow their content to embedded within (social-sharing) frames which breaks the user-experience:
Should I be worried as a URL purist and researcher about social sharing sites and short URL services renaming URLs?
This post is part of a larger series that looks into the status of the hyperlink in Web 2.0.