In the world of Twitter, users get around the 140 characters per message limit by using URL shortening services to increase the space there is to work with. These sites take a long URL and make a redirect with as few characters as possible.

It started out with, but swiftly cut down the characters and took over as the service's most popular shortener. Others exist, including, snurl and twurl, along with - which has just announced that it's shutting down.

The company behind it has blamed too much competition and rising network costs for the move, but has said that ultimately it just wasn't a useful enough product. " did well for what it was, but, alas, it was not enough. We simply cannot find a way to justify continuing to work on it, or pay its network costs, which are not inconsequential".

The company even tried to find someone to take it over, but had no luck. "We quietly contacted a number of people within the Twitter development world, and nobody wanted it in exchange a token amount of money. No one perceived any value in it, or they wanted to operate a shortener under a differently branded domain name".

"And, the data that generates - the hottest links that people are sharing right now - is all well and good, but everyone has this data (...) meaning it is basically worthless *by itself* to base a business on".

All links will continue to work at least until the end of 2009, but the company says "Statistics can no longer be considered reliable, or reliably available going forward". It's possible that someone will buy the service, even if just to make all the redirects point to spam or malware sites, but that remains to be seen.

Update: wants to save, with the developers saying they've reached out the company offering to host the URL mappings, which should save some dough. They might buy, too.

We'll keep you posted.