Have you ever wondered what would happen to your content on third-party sites if those sites ceased to exist? You may own your content on them as it stands now, but what if they went away?
You may recall earlier this year when URL-shortening service Tr.im announced it was going to shut down and sparked a big discussion about what happens to all of these links if such a service just decides it doesn't want to exist anymore. It is an interesting discussion, and it ultimately led to Tr.im having a change of heart and deciding to remain functional.

Now, the Internet Archive has announced the launch of 301Works.org, a service, which archives shortened URLs. The organization sums up the need for such a service pretty well:

The use of shortened URLs has grown dramatically due to the popularity of Twitter and similar micro-streaming services where posts are limited to a small number of characters. Millions of shortened URLs are generated for users every day by a wide variety of companies.

But when a URL shortening service shuts down, the shortened URLs people put in their blogs, tweets, emails and web sites break. Unless users have kept a record of each shortened URL and where it was supposed to redirect to, it’s not possible to fix them.

Over 20 URL shortening services have gotten involved with 301Works.org, and Bit.ly (Twitter's service of choice) has already begun donating archives. "Short URL providers have in the space of eighteen months become a corner stone of the real time web — 301Works.org was conceived to provide redundancy so that users and services could resolve a URL mapping regardless of availability. The Internet Archive is a perfect host organization to run and manage this for all providers," said Bit.ly CEO John Borthwick.

"The Internet Archive is honored to play this role to help make the Web more robust," added Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive.

The issue of archiving the web of course touches a much broader spectrum than that of URL-shorteners. 301Works should go a long way for maintaining shortened URLs, but what about Facebook updates? Tweets? What if Facebook or Twitter decided to shut down one day? According to Twitter's terms of service, you own your content, but Twitter does host it and they have control over it regardless of whether or not you own it.


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