If the Wall Street Journal article published Friday, April 8th entitled Libya’s Widely Used Web Suffix Makes a Long Story Short is to believed (and it is), then I’ve not only been inadvertently “visiting” Libya daily, but I’ve been sending my “peeps” there as well. I am not happy.
I most commonly use Bit.ly and Owl.ly to shorten my URL’s for Twitter. It turns out that the .ly suffix is the most widely used suffix in Libya and is controlled by the Moammar Gadhafi regime. It sounds like this “linguistic anomaly” is unexpected, but definitely an asset to the Gadhafi regime, as it generates revenue from unlikely sources. Us.
According to the article, “the .ly domain is controlled by Libya’s General Post and Telecommunications Co., whose chairman, Mohammed el-Gadhafi, is the dictator’s eldest son. It says it has rented out more than 10,000 .ly domains, either directly or through resellers”.
Here’s how it works:
I go to Hootsuite, copy and paste my long URL into the owl.ly shortener, get a new, shortened URL, and send it out into cyber space to my Twitter Followers. I then click on the link to make sure it’s working, and almost simultaneously, my “followers” click the link as well if the message I’ve sent out is interesting to them and they want to know more. What I didn’t realize was happening is that when I clicked on the Ow.ly address, a request then moves to “one of Libya’s five servers—two inside Libya, two in the U.S. and one in Europe. The .ly server forwards the message to Amazon.com Inc., the contractor HootSuite uses for its Web service, where the 4gC3v Ow.ly code is linked to the original website.”
Yikes. All that re-direction (and through enemy lines) just so I can spit out my message in 140 characters or less.
I’m glad Owl.ly has a backup plan if word spreads and more people like me stop using the Owl.ly shortener. A new suffix is all that is needed, and I want my links routed through another country, thank you very much!