Just as Google enters the market as wellIt's been a great year for Twitter which means it's been a great year for services built to cater to it, but the biggest being URL shorteners which, at one point, were popping up left and right. Things have quieted down a bit, after a few public failures, and Bit.ly settled into the role of undisputed market leader. The status quo wasn't to last though, as the market got a great big shook up with the entrance of both Facebook and Google.
Facebook hasn't made any official announcements, but shortened URLs coming from fb.me started showing up instead of the usual, very long Facebook links. For now, this is done automatically for all links sent through the mobile versions of the site. As Inside Facebook exemplifies, whereas a photo URL from Facebook would look something like http://m.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=35877484&id=1310743&l=a373e8038d the sale page can be accessed through http://fb.me/3Bkj7CW, obviously a huge improvement, especially useful on mobile devices with limited screen space.
Users can't use the URL shortener by themselves and it can't be used to shorten any other links than those leading to a Facebook page, at least for now. It only kicks in automatically when sharing a link on the mobile version. Interestingly though, it works Facebook pages or usernames as well, so a link like fb.me/google will lead users to Google's Facebook page.
Seeing as there isn't any official word from Facebook, the social network's plans for the shortener are left to speculation. One option would be just to leave it as it is, function as a shortener for Facebook links shared through mobile devices, though this seems a bit unlikely. A next step would be to extend the service to all versions of the site and enable users to select the option to shorten their links. What's more it could be enabled for all links shared on the site, not just Facebook pages. Finally, Facebook could very well decide to open up a full-blown shortening service with analytics, something that could definitely be a boon especially for Fan Pages.