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Tr.im returns to life, owner asks $100K for service

Promises to keep tr.im alive, will 'give it away' if a qualified buyer doesn't step up

August 12, 2009 02:40 PM ET

Computerworld - The Canadian developer who operates tr.im brought the URL-shortening service back online yesterday, just three days after shutting it down.

"We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the popular response, and the countless public and private appeals I have received to keep tr.im alive," said Eric Woodward, the president of Nambu Network, the British Columbia-based company that launched the service last summer.

On Sunday, Woodward announced that Nambu was taking tr.im offline because it couldn't compete with bit.ly, the default shortening service used by Twitter. At the time, Woodward said he'd made the decision because he couldn't find a buyer for tr.im.

Services like tr.im and bit.ly convert conventional URLs into shorter strings that redirect users to the original destination, and are most used by Twitter users to add links to their tweets, which are limited to 140 characters.

Although Woodward yesterday promised to keep tr.im "operating, going forward, indefinitely," today he acknowledged that he's still trying to find a buyer.

"We would still sell tr.im, but not just to anyone, because of the sensitivity of the links," Woodward said, repeating statements he made earlier this week about finding a reputable buyer that would not abuse the shortening service to, for instance, redirect users to spam or malware sites.

He also confirmed reports that Nambu wants $100,000 for tr.im. "I sent out the $100,000 figure e-mail to qualified parties," Woodward said, adding that he had set the price bar there to cull the 300-plus requests for more information about buying tr.im to a manageable number.

"I preferred to not waste time," he said. "[But] I have responded to all [inquiries] from parties that would have obvious synergy, or known credibility, and have been responding to inquiries that are more than 'contact me' or 'give it to me.'"

In a blog post Tuesday, Woodward spelled out what he wants in a buyer. "We want to see tr.im live on, but feel we can only transition it to another party committed to ensuring the links are not hijacked in any way," he wrote. "A contract for sale to an unknown group or individual simply cannot guarantee that."

Today, he said he wasn't sure how long he would look for a buyer, but was adamant about keeping tr.im alive. "If it comes to that, and we don't find someone credible, we'll give it away," Woodward said.

Woodward also rejected the idea proposed by some that tr.im use advertisements to recoup its costs. "We have no interest in framing tr.im URLs, or adding interstitial advertising to redirects, as some have suggested we do, or others would do with tr.im should they acquire it," he said. "We do not see that as a viable revenue model, as it is not expected or welcomed by the individual visiting a shortened link."

In Tuesday's post, Woodward again took shots at Twitter for creating an uneven playing field, charges he first leveled Sunday when he took tr.im down. "Twitter has stacked the URL-shortening business opportunity overwhelmingly in bit.ly's favour," he said, referring to Twitter's use of bit.ly as users' default shortener. "This is not whining, as some have suggested, but a simple reality. If we post a link to this blog article by its title, Twitter switches our tr.im URL to a bit.ly URL."

Nambu is also considering dumping its Twitter client software, Nambu and Nambu Touch, which run on the Mac and iPhone, respectively. "We've promised to do at least two more updates to the software," Woodward said, "but we're now rethinking the idea of dropping support. We got the same sort of reaction to that as we did about tr.im."

Sunday, Woodward had hammered Twitter for favoring some client software or add-ons over others.

Tr.im was brought back online mid-day yesterday and is currently generating shortened URLs.

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