Dianna kassela Independent Product Analyst and marketing evangelist, lives in Austria.

Why Google Shuts down Goo.gl

2 min read

A year ago, with no prior announcement, Goo.gl users who visited the Goo.gl site saw this message, at the top of the screen:

Starting March 30, 2018, we will be turning down support for goo.gl URL shortener. From April 13, 2018 only existing users will be able to create short links on the goo.gl console. You will be able to view your analytics data and download your short link information in csv format for up to one year, until March 30, 2019, when we will discontinue goo.gl. Previously created links will continue to redirect to their intended destination.

Later on, they linked to a more detailed blog post on Google developers blog which was supposed to shed some light on this subject. It’s not common to close the gates on a VERY successful service such as Goo.gl (althougn many alternatives out there)

So Why it Goes Down

If there’s one thing I love about Google, and I truly believe that you should appreciate it too, is that whenever they feel that a product is not working or doing what it’s supposed to do, or for some reasons, users do not adopt as expected – they shut it down. Google+, Allo, Inbox, Google Buzz, Google Base, and many others came in a big bang and disappeared.

The tech community always laughed and mocked Google for doing so, celebrating their fails, but closing unsuccessful projects is truly a brave thing to do, knowing you’ll be the mock of the industry for a while. But Google simply does not like hunchbacks that costs a lot of money and to not support the bottom line (which is revenue).

But Goo.gl is Different, Right?

Yes. Goo.gl is a different case indeed.

Google has a framework for mobile app developers called Firebase. It’s not a coding language for mobile apps, but more of a kit of tools you can embed into your mobile app, like a notification management tool, easy authentication for users, QA tools and more. It helps developers to deploy apps faster without the need to code these modules by themselves.

Having said that, there’s another mobile apps “thing” you should be aware of. Deep linking.

Mobile App Deep Links

When someone sends you a link to read an article on the web, it’s pretty clear what you get. the link contains the domain and a relative path, e.g domain.com/best-article-ever. You click on it and reaches the destination with no further clicks. This link is called a deep link since it redirects the user to an internal page of a site, and not the homepage.

On mobile apps, it doesn’t work this way. Mobile apps have no “pages”. If you’ll open your Amazon app on a specific product “page” and you wish to send it to your friend, you can’t do it, since there’s no page. In case you could have done it when your friend gets the link, his/her mobile phone should understand that this links should open the Amazon mobile app (if installed) and to open the relevant “page” inside the app. This process is easy for websites but not for mobile apps. That’s where the deep link concept needs to be re-invented, and it was eventually using other tools, including Firebase which allowed developers to generate special links, that once clicked they can open a specific page inside a firebase-based app.

Goo.gl and Deep Links

Somewhen in 2018 Google has decided to give Firebase framework this desired ability to create deep links, so mobile app marketers can advertise and send deep links to their apps.

Now, you need to know that deep link is a very ugly link that might look like fb://profile/312211332, where fb:// stands for the app name (Facebook in this case), and then some kind of relative path after that.

So now that we have deep links, ugly long deep links we need a way to shorten them, and Google though “oh well, instead of developing a new one, let’s use Goo.gl shortening engine. anyway, it’s just cost us money and probably the data we gain is not valuable enough. So let’s take it.

And they took it. if you wish to keep use it, you need to open Firebase project and all that hassle. If you’re an app developer and you work with Firebase – now you have built-in URL shortener to send deep links to your audience. And what about us? the common people? we’ll go back to Bit.ly. Or some other Goo.gl alternative.

Dianna kassela
Dianna kassela Independent Product Analyst and marketing evangelist, lives in Austria.

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