Ow.ly is a URL shortening and tracking service for Twitter and Facebook, owned by Hootsuite. A new version of this service was created in 2012 by then-owners Xedian Way Group after it merged with HootSuite's affiliate marketing division Concentrate, who had acquired the domain that same year. An earlier iteration of Ow.ly existed as part of TweetPhoto, but became independent upon sale to Xedian Way.
Ow.ly competes primarily with other URL shorteners such as bit.ly and goo.gl; however, unlike its competitors (with the exception of tr.im), it is embedded directly into the core functionality of social media management platform HootSuite. As such, Ow.ly links are visible to all users of the platform alongside their other social statistics.
The original version of Ow.ly was an image hosting service called TweetPhoto, which enabled users to attach photos to tweets without using external sites like TwitPic or ImageShack. This allowed tweeters to pull images from online services like Flickr and Photobucket, as well as their own computers. After it became independent of TweetPhoto in 2012, the service continued its focus on photo sharing, but broadened the scope of what could be shared beyond just images. It introduced video hosting in September 2013; specifying that advertisements were not a part of this change so as to remain a free service.
In April 2010, TweetPhoto was acquired by social media management platform HootSuite for an undisclosed amount of money. The acquisition was reported to be less than $1 million. In July 2012, Xedian Way Group acquired TweetPhoto from HootSuite in a deal that included the Ow.ly URL shortening service and other assets, as well as three employees from the original sale.
After this acquisition, Xedian Way re-launched TweetPhoto's image sharing service under a new name: Ow.ly. This involved changes both to the site's branding and capabilities; with its former association with TweetPhoto dropped, its focus on images shifted slightly to include video, and its image file size limits were increased.
Within days of this re-launch, it was also integrated into Hootsuite's core functionality as a URL shortener for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ pages, and tumblr. The company made an official announcement on their blog, where they specified that all Ow.ly links are tracked within the platform so users can see the overall performance of their social media activity at any time.
Ow.ly is one of three major URL shortening services owned by Hootsuite. The other two are bit.ly and goo.gl; however both have restrictions that brand use (bit.ly requires the permission of Twitter, and goo.gl is restricted to Google-owned sites), whereas Ow.ly does not.
Ow.ly is a service used primarily by large companies to share links across social networks. The majority of its users are in the United States, followed closely by Canada, India, Australia, Brazil and the UK. Most ow.ly links are shared on Facebook (more than 11 million per month) or Twitter (more than 4 million per month).
Ow.ly links can be viewed by any user who accesses an Hootsuite account; however only those with Pro or Enterprise plans can create new ones within HootSuite's core functionality. Furthermore, only Enterprise customers are able to sign up for an Ow.ly account in that platform.
Ow.ly links use the Ow.ly domain, beginning with "ow." and ending with ".ly" (the top-level domain of Libya). By default, they are 36 characters long, consisting of 3 groups of 12 digits each. Because Ow.ly uses Hootsuite to track its performance, all links share the same tracking code across social networks. This means that only one view is recorded per user viewing a specific link at any given time; if another user views it while someone else is viewing, no additional views will be registered.
While ow.ly was originally associated with TweetPhoto, its new owner re-branded the service and launched it under a new brand: Ow.ly. It began allowing users to register for an account on April 27, 2012; with this launch came changes to branding and functionality (both of which followed the sale from HootSuite).
Currently, users can create accounts free of charge on either platform, while Enterprise customers who sign up in Hootsuite receive the same services available across all other plans (including shortening links without ads).
Ow.ly is fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter, and is also included as part of Hootsuite's standard plan (included in all but their free version).
Ow.ly's parent, TweetPhoto (acquired by Hootsuite in July 2012), was originally a free to use photo sharing application for Twitter and Facebook; it allowed users to upload images to their social profiles and link back to them via Ow.ly URLs. It was created in 2007 and owned by Xedian Way Group until it changed hands with Hootsuite in 2012. Following this acquisition, the service re-launched as Ow.ly on April 27, 2012; as such, all former users were forced to sign up for new accounts as part of that transition.
The company made an official announcement about these changes via their blog on April 19, 2012:
The new service now allows users to sign up for an account entirely free of charge (in addition to existing pro and enterprise plans), which means that it no longer requires TweetPhoto accounts in order to shorten links.
As with its parent, Ow.ly remains fully integrated across all popular social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr. In fact, its link shortening capabilities are directly supported within Hootsuite's core functionality.
During the re-launch on April 27th 2012, additional changes included a boost of image file sizes from 10MB to 50MB, as well as a refreshed look-and-feel that
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