Dev Depot: YOURLS — Getting a Handle on Outbound Traffic Flow

Stephen Yagielowicz

Your own URL Shortener offers webmasters a simple way to count clicks, monitor website traffic and more.

URL shortening services offer a mobile keyboard and social media friendly means of limiting the length of often unwieldy uniform resource locators. Although third-party services are typically used for link shortening, running your own script is a simple method of getting a better grip on your website’s traffic and revenues, by counting clicks as a means of auditing sponsor stats for shaving; monitoring visitor flow; and providing seamless redirects as the need occurs.

YOURLS allows sequential or custom URL keywords can be specified, while useful bookmarklets let users easily shorten and share their content.

URL shorteners may be powerful, but they don’t have to be difficult or expensive to develop, implement and maintain.

A product of developers Lester Chan and Ozh Richard, YOURLS (, short for Your Own URL Shortener, is a small set of PHP scripts that allow users to run their own URL shortening service, similar to TinyURL or bitly.

According to its publisher, YOURLS is free Open Source software that operates in either Private or Public modes, shortening your own, or other users links, respectively — with the latter option recommended for intranet or other controlled-access installations, so as to avoid a deluge of pharmacy and other spammers.

“Running your own URL shortener is fun, geeky and useful: you own your data and don’t depend on third party services,” states the software’s spokesperson. “It’s also a great way to add branding to your short URLs, instead of using the same public URL shortener everyone uses.”

YOURLS allows sequential or custom URL keywords can be specified, while useful bookmarklets let users easily shorten and share their content. An Ajax-enhanced main admin dashboard and robust statistical interface provide historical click reports, referrer tracking, visitor geo-location and more, with reports for each shortened URL.

YOURLS boasts full support for JSON with Padding (JSONP), a developer API with a plugin architecture that allows users to easily implement new features, an easy to use installation package, and sample files for creating a public URL shortening interface and other features.

YOURLS is extensible via plugins (PHP scripts that boost the functions and features of the parent script). This allows the YOURLS core files to be as light as possible while enabling easy customization in a way that ensures changes won’t be lost when upgrades to the installation are made. Plugins can be easily activated and deactivated via the admin interface, with a library available that includes everything from Google Analytics hooks to a “pseudonymizer” that brings IP addresses into line with new German privacy laws.

Webmasters can download YOURLS from Google Code and follow the software’s development on the revision list, obtaining current snapshots using SVN. Given its ease of use and free cost, YOURLS may be just the thing your site needs to shorten its links.


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