In another of Apple’s regular, unheralded announcements, the firm has opened up the ap.pl Store, a URL shortening service that can be found at ap.pl or via me.com or apple.com. Shortening services let you take a long URL and turn it into a short one appropriate for use on Twitter or other compact messaging services. Coming swiftly on the heels of the announcement that tr.im would be shutting down, Apple clearly hopes to become the dominant player in this fractured market.
Unlike other shortening schemes where URLs are quickly shortened via a web input page, Apple’s scheme will first require “URL developers” to submit their URLs for approval. In a press release, CEO Steve Jobs noted that this step is necessary because “a bad URL can take down the entire Internet and consequently all of western civilization.”
“We didn’t want to get into a shortening service until we had something entirely new to bring to the table,” said Apple’s worldwide marketing chief Phil Schiller. “With the ap.pl Store, we’re bringing features that no one else has. Like ShortStop, our patented guarantee that all destinations will be verified free of phishing, malware, viruses, pornography, Lindsay Lohan, inappropriate words, phrases, gestures, implications, thoughts or steganography.”
“Not that Macs have trouble with malware and viruses, of course,” Schiller chuckled, before reciting a 10-minute disclaimer about that statement and asking reporters to sign a release.
To use the ap.pl store, you simply download and install iTunes 8.3, click the ap.pl Store link in the left sidebar, and agree to terms and conditions. Then you need to fill out a profile about how you will be using the service, provide a credit card number and a bank account, and place your retina near any iSight camera (other cameras won’t work).
In an average of 3 to 7 weeks, you’ll get a message from Apple that your ap.pl Store is available, at which point you install a new ap.pl Store Utility, which will help you download and create the digital certificates you’ll need to create ap.pl links. Each URL requires a separate digital signature, which the program can manage for you.
“We’re building on what we learned with previous efforts to have a direct impact on the Web experience, including Apple Cards, whitelisted Web sites, Homepage, Cyberdog, eWorld and other efforts,” Schiller said.
URL developers can sign up for the program for free if they only wish to use the shortened URLs themselves. Otherwise, a yearly $99 charge will allow for the development and distribution of an unlimited number of URLs.
“No one before us has figured out how to monetize this,” Schiller said, adding that in iPhone OS 3.1, only ap.pl links will be allowed on Web pages and in applications. “That might cause a little backlog, so we’re shifting key resources from the App Store over to the ap.pl Store.
“And by key resources I mean Gordy.”
URLs are not allowed to compete with existing Apple URLs, so links to competing products or services will be rejected. In fact, URLs can be rejected for any reason, based on the understanding of a 400-page specification document by Gordy, the one intern who will be reviewing all URLs.
“I look forward to inexplicably rejecting your URL soon!” an enthusiastic Gordy said.
“And then just as inexplicably approving it!”