Sunday October 01, 2017

URL shortening, with feeling

Emojis can communicate strong emotions!

Emojis can communicate strong emotions!

Listen 7:39

You've probably used a URL shortener like Bit.ly before. They turn long, unwieldy URLs into snappy short ones. But why limit them to letters and numbers?

Alberto

Alberto Betella

Alberto Betella created a URL shortener that turns long chains of characters into short strings of emojis. The shortener uses natural language processing to look for information in the original, conventional URL, and translates that into related goofy emojis. For example, the emojis for a page about the show Game of Thrones are 'snowflake/crossed swords/crown'.

Surprisingly, this is not the first emoji URL shortener, according to Alberto. It is, however, the first to do more than just generate a random set of emojis.

It's not a perfect system. URLs in emoji form don't display properly everywhere online. For instance, they're not currently recognized on Facebook or Twitter. But for Alberto, that was part of the point. "It's a glance to the future, in some ways," he says. "It's just a matter of time. Soon it will happen, and we are ready for that."

Visual cues...convey information to our brain significantly faster than characters - Alberto Betella

This is a side project for the Barcelona-based Alberto. He says he built it one Sunday, while not working at his regular job as CTO of a startup called Badi.

Alberto imagines his shortener could be used in marketing campaigns. "When you use an image...a number of studies demonstrate that visual cues...convey information to our brain significantly faster than characters," he says. His shortener also gives people the option to create a customized emoji URL.

Alberto thinks his shortened URLs could communicate meaning around the world, much like the use of emojis generally. "You can remove the cultural and language barriers," he argues. "Game of Thrones could be, for example, interpreted by everyone, despite their cultural heritage or language."