Custom URL Shortener

Setting up my own, just for fun

Posted by David Van Loon on April 19, 2020

I’ve been on a mini-side-project spree lately, and I decided (on a whim) to set up my own URL shortener. If you’ve been on Twitter (or really anywhere online), you’ve probably seen the result of such services. It’s like bit.ly, but with a personalized address. For example, Microsoft uses aka.ms for their short-links.

After checking the features and pricing of a few providers (and considering a self-hosted solution, or course), I settled on Rebrandly. Their free plan offers unlimited links and the ability to use a custom domain.

First, though, I needed a short domain. After balking at the $40k+ price of some options, I found one that fit my expectations: davl.ink. It’s got the first few letters of my name, and includes the work “link.” A few clicks, and the domain was mine. I changed the nameservers over to Cloudflare and added the necessary A records to point the domain at Rebrandly.

The result: I can create short links to whatever I like, personalized with my own domain!

For example, this link will redirect you to my personal site: davl.ink/me. This link will send you to my photo stream: davl.ink/photos. I tweeted out a link to this post using this link: davl.ink/url-shortener-dd7e2.

Will I use this much? I don’t know. I like the ability to give someone a link that is short, memorable, and personalized. The ability to change the link destination after-the-fact has some great potential applications for preventing link rot. For example, if I change where my photo stream is hosted, I can change the short link to point at the new host. Anyone to whom I’ve already given the link can still use it.

Best of all, the only cost to me is the domain registration, which comes in at ~$19/year. Worth it? 🤷‍♂️