ghurl URL Shortener
A URL Shortener with no back-end server04 Jun 2014
by Guilherme Berger
I wanted to explore ways I could (ab)use the GitHub pages and repositores ecosystem by creating working systems that would otherwise need a back-end server.
I was inspired by GitHub Resumé, which uses an opt-in system based on starring the repository. Other sources of inspiration were repositories that use pull requests to maintain information about, e.g., a tech meetup group in a certain city.
I created ghurl, a URL shortener. My idea was to use GitHub issues, combined with the GitHub API, to store and retrieve the long URLs.
The user’s flow goes like this:
Create an issue on the ghurl/db repository. The title of the issue should be the URL you want to redirect to.
Note n, the issue’s number.
Construct your shortened URL using n:
Then, when the user accesses the “shortened URL” (it’s not really that short, unless I buy a custom domain), I use the issue’s number (from the query string) to send an AJAX call to the GitHub API. When it’s done, I use the issue’s title as the URL to redirect the user to.
The short URLs contain the issue number in the query string, so I could later retrieve them from the repo. And by using a query string, I effectively have a catch-all URL into a single HTML page: perfect for using GitHub pages for hosting the static HTML+JS+CSS files.
Of course, nobody should really use this service in the real world, for several reasons:
- It needs an extra network trip to fetch the issue
- It is kinda hard to use and requires that the user is familiar with GitHub and GitHub issues
- It doesn’t provide analytics or tracking. It allows the user to change the target URL, though (by editing the issue).
However, I still plan to improve its usability a little bit. Here’s what’s on my mind:
- Text input with button that leads to
- Text input for the issue number, live changing the short URL
- Easy to copy short URL
- Automatically capture issue number (call API for all issues, find by title == given URL)
It was fun to bend the environment to support a minimalistic system, and I look forward to tackling a new challenge.