You might remember the recent sunsetting of Google’s URL shortener. This was something I took notice of because it meant that the url.cwl.cc service (based on their link shortener) was going to be shut down. Right? To be fair, I took notice, but also didn’t do much at the time. March 30, 2019, came and went and I could still use the service. 2020 arrived, and the service was still functioning. Now, more than a year and a half past the end, I can still create short links. This is perhaps the biggest oddity I have ever seen from Google.
And today’s Short Link service seems like something locked in the early 2010s, like a red giant star ready to. If you look at that interface, you can’t help recalling the joy of using Google Reader and the old Gmail tool. Google’s stuff sure has changed, but not Short Links. The markers of Google’s past are still there. You’ll notice the little beaker left of my name eschewing the Google Labs of past. Also, the reference to Google App Engine drops a logo that has probably long-disappeared from Google’s servers. The page that references Google Short Links in the App Engine itself with id “5143210+6352879591152674960” is also gone.
I thought working backwards might help. The domain I use for short links is url.cwl.cc and the DNS entry is a CNAME pointing to ghs.google.com. There is nothing but a 404 error on the web at ghs.google.com, by the way. What if I just created a new domain and pointed a CNAME to ghs.google.com? I tried that and opened the site. Google gave me its characteristic broken robot error.
So, somewhere on Google’s servers, the Short Link service is defined, my domain is setup and links can be created there. This leaves me with a functioning short link service, but no way to administer it. There’s no way to add or change the current domain (that I can see) and probably no way to know if Google is even aware that it’s running. This could be some computer sitting under the desk of that guy who left just before COVID-19 started. Also, yes, this is never going to see an update, nor are you going to be able to sign up for it. Welcome to purgatory, Google-style.