Tr.im shuts down, backer blames Twitter

Inside track by bit.ly meant 'game over,' says Nambu Network

The Mac and iPhone developer that's been running the tr.im URL-shortening service called it quits Sunday, saying it was shutting down the service after it failed to find a buyer.

Nambu Network, a small British Columbia-based developer, has also stopped development of its Twitter and FriendFeed clients for Mac OS X and the iPhone.

"We're accepting the realities and moving on," said Eric Woodward, the president of Nambu, in an interview late Sunday night.

Tr.im, which competed with other services such as bit.ly and TinyURL.com, converted conventional URLs into shortened strings that redirected users to the original destination. The services are accessed by Twitter users to add links to their tweets, which are limited to 140 characters.

Woodward said Nambu approached several possible buyers, but failed to get a nibble. "I tried that with selected companies that would have a use for it, and no one wanted to pay anything for it, so I decided to just terminate the project."

Users worried that links they'd built with tr.im would suddenly lead nowhere, but Woodward has promised to continue to redirect all tr.im links until at least Dec. 31. "That deadline could be extended, if necessary," he said. "I will revisit it in the fall if no one takes over tr.im this week. We want to do the right thing."

As of Sunday, tr.im is not accepting any new URL shortening requests. "Tr.im is now in the process of discontinuing service, effective immediately," a message on tr.im reads.

"A lot of people are getting worked up over nothing," Woodward said about the tr.im users who worried about dead links. "Other than a few bloggers, almost all of them are using tr.im only on Twitter." For its part, Twitter limits the tweet history that users can access, typically to a six-to-12-month span for most users, and even shorter, around six months, for high-volume users, said Woodward. By the time tr.im stops redirecting links, "this will be long forgotten," he said.

Nambu did not announce on its Web site whether it will also discontinue Nambu and Nambu Touch, its Twitter/FriendFeed clients for the Mac and iPhone, respectively, but Woodward said that move was "very likely." It had previously halted development on the software.

He laid most of the blame for tr.im's demise on Twitter, which made bit.ly its default shortening service last May. "They're the default, and even if we're better, it won't matter, so what's the point?" he said. "As soon as bit.ly was made the default, the game was over."

Nambu faced the same uphill battle with its Twitter client. "They give Tweetdeck and Tweetie and others priceless free and targeted advertising," Woodward said. "We're not going to invest the same ad dollars to get that market share, because those [who get the favored positioning] have larger margins. So there's no point in proceeding in that business either."

Woodward denied reports that tr.im had been victimized by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack last week, as had Twitter, Facebook and other social network-related sites and services, but acknowledged an hourlong service outage during the week. There was no connection between the outage and the decision to pull tr.im's plug, he added.

Although Woodward said he wasn't bitter and felt no ill will toward Twitter, he made it clear who he thought was at fault. "Twitter's ecosystem has lots and lots of developers, so from their perspective, it's healthy. But they're deciding who is going to win and who is going to lose."

Nambu launched tr.im in the summer of 2008.

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