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This article explains how you can short URLs using different methods. There are free services out there but they have their limitations so you should consider implementing your own solution if you want better results or have other requirements to satisfy. If you are new to this type of work, you will see that there are many different tools available and it won't be easy to choose one.
In this article we'll be using a few of the most popular techniques for shortening URLs. We'll show you how to build your own URL shortener from scratch in PHP - yes, you read that right! If PHP isn't your thing then don't worry because we are also going to cover other languages. Let's jump straight into it!
The two main methods for building a URL shortener are: Using an SQL database (such as MySQL) Using NoSQL (such as Redis or Memcached ) The choice is yours but what should you consider when selecting which method to use? Real-time statistics Reporting options Supported platforms Limitations Can you build your own URL shortener?
In this article we will show you the differences between using an SQL database and using NoSQL. In addition to that, we'll be presenting a list of technologies, complete with tools and libraries for both options so you can easily find your way around. If you want to follow along and recreate our example application we've made it easy for you by providing all the necessary code on GitHub . All the examples shown here work out of the box - no installation or configuration needed! You can just clone or download them and start coding :)
Is there an easier way to shorten URLs than building your own solution? Yes! There are some great SaaS solutions available online where you just need to input your destination URL and the service will return the short version. But... what if you want to shorten URLs for yourself? Or what if the tool doesn't do exactly what you need? Also, there might be limitations when using these services which means that in some cases implementing your own solution is preferable.
Let's get started with this example. We'll use PHP because it's easy to understand, but the concepts are language agnostic so they can easily be applied to other languages as well. If you are familiar with Python or Ruby then take a look at our alternative examples .
You can also watch the following video in which we'll show you how to build an example URL shortener in 3 steps.
Let's get started! Ready? Let's go!
SQL Database Approach This method uses an SQL database (such as MySQL, PostgreSQL or MS SQL) where all the URLs are stored and their respective shortened versions are retrieved using queries. The main advantages of using this approach are: Good for scaling when your application becomes popular. You can run multiple servers with load balancing or switch to sharding (multiple databases). Commonly available - most programming languages will allow you to easily use it with existing ORM libraries Support for transactions Reporting is somewhat limited Supported platforms Any platform with a decent implementation of an SQL language (e.g. PHP, Python or Ruby)
Pros of Using an SQL Database for URL Shortening
Real-time statistics Reporting options Supported platforms Limitations Can you build your own URL shortener?
NoSQL Approach This method uses a NoSQL database (such as Redis or Memcached ) where all the URLs are stored and their respective shortened versions are retrieved using key lookups. The main advantage of using this approach is speed - you don't have to execute queries because the data is kept in memory . The downsides are that it's not easy to query historical data or receive alerts when something goes wrong with one of your URLs. You'll also be limited by the amount of information you can extract cached items . It's not good for scaling. You can't add extra servers to handle increased traffic because there won't be any data to distribute - the information will all be in your application memory. Commonly available - most programming languages will allow you to easily use it with existing ORM libraries Supported platforms Any platform with a decent implementation of an NoSQL language (e.g. PHP, Python or Ruby)
Pros of Using a NoSQL Database for URL Shortening
Limitations Can you build your own URL shortener?
In the next section we will show you how to implement both options from scratch using PHP and MySQL , but before that let's recap what we've learned so far: In order to get started implementing a basic URL shortener using either an SQL or NoSQL approach you'll need the following: A language to write your code (e.g. PHP or Ruby) A SQL or NoSQL database (e.g. MySQL, PostgreSQL or Redis) MongoDB and Memcached alternatives to MySQL and Redis respectively
If this is not the case then we recommend that you check out our ready-to-use example applications which come with all the libraries and frameworks you need installed. Ready-to-use URL shortener examples written in several popular programming languages can be found on GitHub .
Our implementation will provide URLs similar to http://orlandostatic.com/redir/1f7mj2 using a domain name of your choice such as http://grokonez.com/ . The source code for this example is available on GitHub at grokonez/php-url-shortener .
The first step is to identify the requirements of our application. Then we'll go over some basic design choices that will help us meet those requirements. We can then use these design choices to build a simple micro web app that will serve as the foundation of our URL shortener.
Requirements A unique identifier for each shortened URL (called a slug) Support for many shortenings per slug Support for custom domains Support for reporting and statistics Displaying warnings when a URL fails Safely deleting URLs
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