Turning GitHub Into A URL Shortening Service

Turning GitHub Into A URL Shortening Service

URL shortening services like TinyURL or Bitly have long become an essential part of the modern web, and are popular enough that even Google killed off their own already. Creating your own shortener is also a fun exercise, and in its core doesn’t require much more than a nifty domain name, some form of database to map the URLs, and a bit of web technology to glue it all together. [Nelsontky] figured you don’t even have to build most of it yourself, but you could just (ab)use GitHub for it.

Using GitHub Pages to host the URL shortening website itself, [nelsontky] actually repurposes GitHub’s issue tracking system to map the shortened identifier to the original URL. Each redirection is simply a new issue, with the issue number serving as the shortening identifier, and the issue’s title text storing the original URL. To map the request, a bit of JavaScript extracts the issue number from the request, looks it up via GitHub API, and if a valid one was found (and API rate limits weren’t exceeded), redirects the caller accordingly. What’s especially clever about this is that GitHub Pages usually just serves static files stored in a repository, so the entire redirection logic is actually placed in the 404 error handling page, allowing requests to any arbitrary paths.

While this may not be as neat as placing your entire website content straight into the URL itself, it could be nicely combined with this rotary phone to simply dial the issue number and access your bookmarks — perfect in case you always wanted your own website phone book. And if you don’t like the thought of interacting with the GitHub UI every time you want to add a new URL, give the command line tools a try.