Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Why New Link Shortener Rdd.me Stands Out

In a crowded field, rdd.me is unique in offering the ability make target webpages more readable.

  • April 15, 2011

Design firm Arc90’s new rdd.me link-shortening service tackles two seemingly unrelated problems at once. The first is making long URLs short. (Not that there is any shortage of services for doing that.)

The second problem rdd.me solves is the one identified by legendary magazine designer Roger Black, who recently opined that “Most Web pages are like third-world soccer stadiums.” By which he meant, they’re covered with ads and other distractions.

Arc90’s Readability service has been de-soccer-stadium-ing the Web for two years now, allowing browsers a one-click solution for transforming this:

Into this:

Link-shortening service rdd.me gives users the option to make pages more readable

Link shortening service rdd.me simply combines these two functions. Let’s say you use it to shorten a link for Twitter. Anyone who clicks on that link from a conventional Web browser will be directed to the site in question, and a bar at the top of the screen offers them the option to Readability-ize the site. It’s a polite way to evangelize for Readability, which is the sort of thing people who believe in a less-cluttered Web do.

On a mobile device, the service functions differently. Anyone clicking on that link in Twitter from, say, a smart phone, will be directed to the Readability-ized version of the page, automatically. This saves your viewers from ending up on a page they can’t read because it’s too crowded, and the text is too tiny; it also speeds load times.

But this function of the service could prove to be controversial. In an interview, Arc90 founder Rich Ziade said that the people behind Readability are committed to making sure publishers still get their pageviews. However, the different behavior of rdd.me in a mobile browser means those publishers won’t get their pageviews when users are coming from mobile devices. In essence, rdd.me assumes that most publishers aren’t competent enough to detect mobile browsers and direct users to a page that will give them a satisfying mobile reading experience.

Whether or not publishers are happy with that state of affairs may be irrelevant: the Readability bookmark already works fine on mobile browsers, and Ziade reports that the service is wildly popular, with “millions” of unique articles a month passing through the service.

“I think what it comes down to is there is a really strong need here,” says Ziade. “Tools like this wouldn’t be this popular if [Readability] didn’t resonate with people – if [the current state of the Web] didn’t affect people to they point that they thought this was needed.”

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

Get stories like this before anyone else with First Look.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.