As I make my way around social networking sites including blogging and twitter (haven't really gotten into Facebook yet, although I have an account,) there is a real need to shorten Internet addresses, or URL's.
For a long time, I've used Tiny URL, http://www.tinyurl.com, which takes any url as an input and turns it into a 6 alphanumeric digit.
So, if you take this url for a newspaper story from the Orlando Sentinel as an example, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/orl-sportsmagic-lakers-adelson-11061109jun11,0,3832253.column and feed it as input to the TinyURL web site input screen, you get: http://tinyurl.com/nddtxk. Both links will get you to the same web page, but the second obviously takes up less space, is easier to quote, and for apps like Twitter which are character limited, an absolute requirement.
Another service, bit.ly, provides much the same results. The long link from above becomes http://bit.ly/11F7Ec . Note you still have 6 characters in the address, but "bit.ly" takes up only 6 characters itself and "tinyurl.com" takes up 11. 4 characters may not seem like much, but when you're trying to cram as much as you can into a "tweet", every character counts.
Both services have some nice add-ins for the FireFox browser, which is my main Internet browser. I'll use Internet Explorer when I have to, but I made the switch to FireFox a year ago when I was having a lot of problems with IE. I've been glad I made that switch, since the add-ins and gadgets for FireFox are really great.
For TinyUrl, I use Tiny URL Generator (now up to version 1.0.8). Here's the tiny link for it in both systems: http://tinyurl.com/casdu7 or http://bit.ly/BnFhs. It puts a link icon in the lower right icon bar of FireFox. When surfing to any page, all you have to do is click on the icon and a tiny url is generated and copied to your clipboard ready for pasting into any other application.
For bit.ly, I use the FireFox Browser Sidebar Link. This is available from the bit.ly's tools page. Here again links in both formats: http://bit.ly/ggRpB or http://tinyurl.com/d9bm57. The nice thing about the sidebar link is that you can track the bit.ly link if you set up an account and see how many people actually clicked on it.
For Internet Explorer, you can set up Favorites for both tools and get to the respective sites and generate your short links, but you have extra steps to copy and paste in the links to shorten them; again why I prefer FireFox.