It's perfectly normal for websites to go offline on the intertubes when their owners lose time, interest, money or a combination of the three, but two recent outages have me spooked. The first is urlTea which I talked about a few days ago, now we can add tr.im to the failwhale mix:

Regretfully, we here at Nambu have decided to shutdown tr.im, the first step in shutting down all of our products and services within that brand.

Yikes.

Even before the advent of sites like Twitter that almost require the use of URL shortening services to work, the idea of such services going offline was blood chillingly scary. Now that Twitter (and FriendFeed, and Identi.ca…) does exist the problem is even worse, infinitely worse even.

Aside from search engines, I can't think of any other type of website that could disable so many links on so much of the internet in one fell swoop than a URL shortening service. You take out that middleman and suddenly millions of links don't point to anything. It's like an electronic basket of eggs, only the basket is used by millions of people and the eggs are links. Hey, and they're fragile too, that analogy worked better than I intended! I mean… um… yes, that's exactly what I meant from the start. Smart right?

I predict as more and more of these services decide to appear than disappear and spook enough people as a result there will be a growing trend for tech savvy people to register their own domains to shorten links to their own sites with .htaccess (or the IIS, ColdFusion etc equivalent) so they know they have control over how people get to their sites indefinitely.

I also think the mere existence of URL shortening services is evidence that there are serious usability problems with the intertubes in their current form, but that's a can of worms for another post!