Long before I was investor and board member at Bitly I was a user of the product. I loved it for it’s simplicity, but I invested because of a sea change in behavior that’s reshaping the web. A change from a robot’s view of the web as a series of linked static pages to a realtime networked web that pulses with activity and ideas.
Up until this week, Bitly has been a simple single player experience of shortening links and viewing stats. That, in and of itself, has been useful enough to have attracted millions of users and billions of links shared. Tuesday, they unveiled a redesign aimed at unlocking the value of Bitly data for their entire community of users and providing new use cases for Bitly as a utility for saving, collaborating and sharing links.
It’s not uncommon for users to hate a redesign, in fact, if history is any guide everybody hates every redesign ever.
As a longtime Bitly user, I was no different. Parts of the redesign confused me other parts drove me crazy! But as I’ve worked with the team and shared feedback I’ve come to a better understanding the rationale behind some decisions and have seen changes made that demonstrate that my voice, and the voices of other users, have been heard.
Despite some initial negative reactions I had after getting access to the new Bitly several months ago it has become clearer and clearer that this is far more than a redesign. Sure, the new stats tab is gorgeous and far more useful than what I had in the past. Sure, utility of bundles is magnified by making them far easier to use. Sure, search is screaming fast and wildly useful. Sure, I use Bitly significantly more than I ever have before to save, not just share, links. But that all would fall under the umbrella of a redesign.
No, what makes this more than a redesign is the networked view the new Bitly provides. Today I can search my links and see the topics that are trending in my network. But there’s so many more network effects in the data to unlock. The little link shortening service that held our data in a vacum is growing into a community of companies, influencers and collaborators who are reshaping the web with every share and every save.
There’s bound to be some growing pains along the way but as someone who once pined for the old Bitly I can’t ever imagine going back.
*hat tip to my friend Marc Hedlund who’s tweet inspired the title of this post*