R.I.P. tr.im

Tr.im, a popular URL shortening service announced via a message on their website (http://tr.im) and blog, that they are in the process of discontinuing service (with immediate effect). And the reason? Inability to monetize (With particular emphasis on the fact that, with twitter’s patronage of bit.ly, the battle is all but lost).

I just began reading ‘Crossing the chasm’ by Jeffery Moore, and in the introduction to this book, the author quotes this from the Bible, in an attempt to draw parallels with what is going on in the world of entrepreneurship/VC today – “While many are called, few are chosen”. i.e. how millions of dollars are lost every year, in failed attempts at entrepreneurial (venture) success. I had heard stories of failed ventures in the past, and had reacted philosophically; and what I had been reading should have prepared me for something like this and worse (Especially, given how the Social Media revolution has given rise to a whole new set of startups, most of which have not had their revenue models figured out). Despite all this, I could not help but feel sorry for tr.im, considering how they had impacted the lives of millions of internet users (tweeps in particular). Although I use bit.ly for most of my shortening needs (Primarily because of the stats – which act as periodic ego boosters, the bookmarklet and the firefox extension!), I definitely have visited my fair share of URLS redirected by tr.im (And posted by some of the best in the business too!)
After the initial mourning, I began to think about what this meant for me, and the online world (Social media in particular). This development raises a number of questions. What happens to the millions of tr.im links out there on twitter, linked-in, etc.? What about other companies which provide this service today – Would they be discouraged, or would they continue with the freemium offering for a while longer (And use the extra time to figure out how best to monetize)? Has any company in this space hit upon a winning plan that would allow them to operate sustainably (And make profits)? Would other shorteners start charging for their services?

I had my doubts about the monetization potential of URL shorteners from the very beginning. When I first came across these on the linked-in statuses of some of my contacts (Before my foray into twitterverse), I wondered who would provide such a service, and what would they get out of it. My first guess was that the website (linked-in) enabled users to shorten verifiable/known external links or that this was a subscription service of some sort, where users paid a small monthly/annual fee, in return for an unlimited number of short links. As it turned out, it was neither. This was another of those ideas that the initiators hoped they’d be able to cash in on, once they had a sizeable base of regular (loyal) users. But what premium services could URL shorteners hope to sell to internet users? Would users be willing, at any point, to pay for such a service? Many, if not most of them would probably stop using shorteners, if they were asked to pay. One major fall out of such an occurrence would be deterioration in the quality of tweets, fewer links posted on twitter, and eventually a drastic reduction in the twitter user base. Twitter would need to step in very soon and do one of two things – a. consider the possibility of reducing the 140 character tweet limit (But then of course, tweeps would then get used to typing longer messages, leaving just as much space as before, for the poor URL).
b. provide the shortening service themselves?? (Acquire bit.ly?).

I am curious to see how twitter would react. Twitter already has enough on its plate – What with the recent DDoS attacks, and the questions being raised about twitter’s robustness and ability (or lack of it) to cope with such attacks – and the last thing that it would want is for users’ faith in URL shorteners to be shaken.

And now for something completely different – What’s the deal with Outlook add-ins? (I know, this is totally unrelated to the message, and tone of this post, but could not help rant about it here. I am borrowing this idea from my friend and ex-colleague, Salman Ansari, who rants via his blog http://daretorant.com). My Outlook started consuming ~50% of CPU, all of a sudden. And a google/bing (I am trying to get used to the idea of bing as a verb, or even popularizing said usage, by conscious repeated usage) for solutions resulted in a bunch of links (Couldn’t think of a better collective noun for internet links; there should be one by now, I am sure) all of which said, disable add-ins. I mean, what’s the bleeding point (One might very well say “Is this what we fought for, Mr. Rumbold”) ?!? Why develop add-ins, and make provisions for installing them in the first place, if your support engineers recommend that users disable add-ins. A few MB’s of extra memory, a percentage point or two of CPU is understandable, but 50%? Are we supposed to run an OS or what? And is it easy to disable add-ins? When I tried doing that from within outlook, I received a hideous message box that said “The connected state of Official Add-ins registered in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE cannot be changed”, which meant that I had to knock the doors of a higher power, the registry (And ruthlessly delete all entries under the outlook add-ins key-After backing them up, of course).


~ by jyothiprakash on August 10, 2009.

9 Responses to “R.I.P. tr.im”

  1. There is trust center in the menu options. You can disable the addin there. 🙂

  2. @Sandeep: That’s exactly where I tried disabling it from, in the first place, and outlook would not allow me to!

  3. Then go the installation directory of the addin (may be like c:\program files\google…) and then rename the dll. Restart the outlook.

    • @Sandeep: Yeah. I had two options – Delete/rename the file or edit the registy (I prefered to do the latter, because of my longstanding love affair with the Windows registry :-!)
      My crib was not that I had to resort to the backdoor (Because this sort of the thing should be b & b for a system software developer), but what about lay users who do not have an inkling about what goes on behind the scenes?? (A community whose population far exceeds the no. of people with a knowledge of the Windows registry/application files).

  4. by the way how are you doing? So you are now in Detroit haaa…

    Near Ann Arbor?

  5. That is a good place. I am in Hyderabad. http://www.commvault.com.

    give me your personal mail id or send it to my mailid mentioned below along with this comment

  6. there will uninstall in add remove programs for people who are not in software development.

    BTW which addin are you talking about. I have commercially done some addin development myself few years ago.

    • For third party add-ins (Like say, Xobni), this is doable; But I had a problem with all add-ins, including inbuilt MS office/outlook add-ins (Which there is no way to uninstall from ARP). And one of the big reasons for this rant was the fact that a lot of people had posted this problem online (Which obviously means that they were not aware of any of the above three – File deletion, Registry, ARP).

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