BURL Source Code

In a former life, I wrote a small program that created shorter URLs, it was called BURL: A Better URL. It was very much like TinyURL or any other URL shortening service, except that I wrote it. It was a proof-of-concept URL shortening SaaS that attempted to provide more context to the link by embedding the registered domain name in the shortened URL. It lived a short life before spammers found it and I had to shut it down.

The source code was released under a GNU GPL license, however I never reposted it after I took the site down. I received an email today wondering if I would share the BURL code (the answer being, “Of course!”).

Long story short, here is the long lost BURL source code:

There’s an included readme file, but setup is really simple. There are two files (index.html and rpc.php). Put them both in a folder. Create the mySQL database (details are in the readme file) and setup your .htaccess file (again, details are in the readme file).

I would like to strong point out that this is code that I wrote 3 years ago. I would have been 19 at the time. I would like to think that my programming ability has matured since then.

Otherwise, enjoy!

Where Did BURL Go?

On Friday I had a bit of scare. From my Inboxen™:

Attention Andrew:

Your BlueHost.Com account for andrewferguson.net was deactivated. Your data may still be temporarily available even though your web site may not be functioning. If you feel this deactivation is in error, please contact support as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Bluehost Support

A quick check on my site indicated that it had been deactivated.

Fuck, was pretty much the only word that came to mind. I quickly called up BlueHost to see what the problem was.

As it turned out, some spammer had found my little project and was using it to disguise their links. This made it look like I was spamming, even though I was not. Not even ten minutes later, everything was cleared up. Then I went and took down BURL offline.

I may go back and implement a CAPTCHA or include a Terms of Service Agreement. But that’s where BURL is.


BURL Update

I haven’t released any changes to BURL for three weeks, the last one change being the addition of Google Analytics tracking.

BURL continues to get about 30-40 hits/day, not including indexing by search engines.

Of things to note, someone has finally taken me up on my offer to use BURL under the GPL license. At first, I was a little angered. I really don’t know why. They did what I told them they could do. Humph. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t work because they haven’t configured it properly, go figure. Link: http://www.websys.jp/surl/.

I’m also planning on releasing a small change in the way BURLs are created. I think I’m going to drop the inclusion of sub-domains. It doesn’t provide a whole lot of context.

Thursday’s with Fergie: The Story of BURL

Because I know you all read my blog on a regular basis, I’m sure you know most of the details already. 🙂
In any event, this is the story of BURL, an idea that changed the way I think about the Internet (yes, I said the “I” word).

It all started on Monday, with an article on Lifehacker called Tiny URL Etiquette. For those not in the “know”, TinyURL is a website that let’s you take a long URL, such as: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=fad44098-8b73-4e06-96d4-d1eb70eacb44&displaylang=en and makes it shorter, like so: http://tinyurl.com/4gdju. However, as the article pointed out, “[s]ending a shortened URL means you lose all the context that normal URLs provide.” Using the above as an example: with the long link, you immediately see microsoft.com and instantly know that it has something to do with Microsoft. But with the TinyURL, you have no idea where it points to.

“For those reasons, consider posting both the original URL as well as the tinyurled one. Let your audience know where they’re linking to. Adding both raises the level of trust and lets people decide more knowingly whether they want to follow that link or not.”

BURL was born. My idea behind a Better Universal Resource Location, BURL, was to bring back at least some of the context of the URL being linked to. I wrote the initial version in about two hours right after I got out of school. I wrote back to Lifehacker informing them of
my Proof-of-Concept and they posted a short article about it the next day!
Alternative Short URLs With BURL
Yesterday we talked about Tiny URL Etiquette and the fact that sometimes tiny isn’t better. Sometimes short URLs don’t contain enough information to let a person know where they’re going.
In response to that concern Lifehacker reader Andrew Ferguson
created BURL—Better URL. It shortens a URL yet leaves some context.
Nice work.

Yea. Waaaay cool. You see, Lifehacker is listed as one of the Top 100 Blogs by CNET. To even get mentioned on it was awesome. Within 24 hours, over 500 people had stopped by and tried out BURL. Definitely exciting. I spent a few more days tweaking it a bit and then yesterday I decided to make it way better. I learned how to implement something called AJAX (it’s a collection of several languages that provide a very cool interactive interface) and now BURL uses AJAX which is freaking awesome (at least in my book).

Yes, a very nerdy story, but that’s what your expect and hopefully enjoy from me. Have a great weekend and prepare for an awesome story
for next Thursday!

And next time you need a short URL, remember to make it a BURL

Trying to Buy a Domain

To be honest, BURL has been more successful than I thought it would be. So I’m planning on developing it some more. So I was looking for a domain name I could used. I first tried burl.com. It’s been taken. Then I tried burl.net and burl.org. This is where my search got frustrating. http://www.burl.com is just pointing to a “Coming Soon!” page on Earthlink. I bet it’s been like that since it was registered and I bet it will be like that for many months to come. But the dot net and dot org sites are just those stupid search pages that provide nothing good to the Internet. Some sites will sell them, but only over $1500. Yea right. Does anyone know anything that I can do?

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BURL Makes lifehacker

It’s not Slashdot, but my small proof-of-concept project BURL has made the front page of lifehacker. So a welcome to everyone from lifehacker who have found your way to my site. I have a Calc II test tonight, so there won’t be any BURL updates until after then. However, thanks for the suggestions some of you have sent in. I will be working on incorporating them into the next BURL release.

More on BURL

As I said before, I’ve created BURL (Better URL). It’s really more of proof of concept based on an article at Lifehacker on Tiny URL Etiquette. The issue with TinyURL and just about any other site similar to it is that all context is lost. If I post a link to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=fad44098-8b73-4e06-96d4-d1eb70eacb44&displaylang=en, you can take one glance at it and know that it has something to do with Microsoft. However, if I post a link to http://tinyurl.com/4gdju, you have nothing. There is zero context to what is being linked to and you have to trust the sender of the link to provide that context. What I tried to do is maintain some of the context of the original link. A BURL link looks like this: http://burl.fergcorp.com/microsoft/6e1c1. Yes, it is longer but you now have context. And the best part is, all you still have to do is enter just the URL in. BURL automatically takes the domain name and makes that the context word.

Now a few notes on the programming side. This is just a proof of concept. I wrote the code in just a few hours and while I’ve done quite a bit of testing, I’ve not done enough to consider it final. So, if you come across any bugs or glitches, just let me know. Otherwise, enjoy!