Sunrise URL Shortener (SURLS)

Generic URL shorteners do not fit the needs of the movement. We have our very own URL shortening Service!

Jump to Using Firebase to create dynamic links, if you are only here to make a short link.

We’ve been using bit.ly in the movement to have short URLs that will redirect people to sites with long URLs. Short URLs are very useful for the movement; We use short URLs during meetings when we need people to go somewhere online during a meeting, to save money when sending out texts (think number of characters per text), to have a disciplined Internet aesthetic, etc.

Using bit.ly as a URL shortener (or any other similar service) can have its disadvantages:

  • Email services tend to blacklist emails containing shortened URLs from popular URL shortening sites.1) We don’t want Sunrise emails ending up in spam!
  • Anybody can pretend to be Sunrise on the Internet. We don’t want any malicious actors pretending to be sunrise by adding “sunrise” to a shortened URL.
  • Shortened URLs on these services are often not dynamic (meaning a short URL will permanently point to one long URL, with no ability to later change where a short URL points to.) We want to have the ability to change where a short URL points to (e.g. smvmt.org/wc points the upcoming Welcome Call registration link, the long URL is changed every week, but the short URL is always the same).

“smvmt.org” is the domain name for the URL shortener. This domain is currently managed in Christian Galo’s personal google account. Ownership should be transferred to Sunrise.

We currently have a URL shortener set up on a Google product called Firebase Dynamic Links. This service is usually used by app developers for web links pointing to apps and sites within apps; It’s main purpose isn’t to be a URL shortening service, so it’s interface is not super intuitive. Nonetheless, we can still use it as such while we search for more user friendly alternatives.

Creating dynamic links should take about 1-3 mins.

  1. Slack Christian Galo with your email address and let him know that you want to be added as a user on the firebase project/URL Shortener.
    1. Alternatively, if this is a one time thing, just send him what you want the suffix (smvmt.org/<suffix>) to be and the URL it should point to.
  2. When you receive the email confirmation that you’ve been added to the project, click the button to “Open Firebase Console”
  3. Open the console. On the sidebar you should see “Grow.” Click on it and a menu should appear. Inside this menu click on “Dynamic Links”
  4. Click on “New Dynamic Link” and make a new shortened URL! (If you are tech savvy you might not need to follow these instructions as they are mostly for reference)
    1. In this first step you write what you want your short URL to be. Be wary that this is case sensitive (e.g. smvmt.org/wc is different from smvmt.org/wC).
      1. Try to keep it short! Use only initials unless you have something catchy!
    2. In the second step, you’ll be asked for a deep link and a name for the shortened URL. Deep link = long URL. This is where you want your short URL to point to.
      1. You can always edit this URL later.
      2. You must put “http:” or “https:” at the beginning of the link.
      3. Try to use https when possible, as it’s the secure version of http.2)
      4. The Dynamic Link Name just serves an administrative purpose. Name it something other people in Sunrise could recognize!
    3. On the third step: Open the deep link URL in a browser. There is no Sunrise App.
    4. On the fourth step: Also open the deep link URL in a browser. As mentioned before, this service is designed for the use of app developers.
    5. On the fifth step: In this section you can (optionally)
      1. Add social media tags (create social media link previews). Control what people will see when this link is posted on social media!
        1. Add preview title
        2. Add preview image URL
        3. Add preview description
      2. Track a campaign with UTM parameters
        1. No idea what this is but it sounds pretty epic. Don’t worry about this unless you are trying to do social media analytics, in which case you should already know what to do with it.
      3. Enable or disable the option of skipping the app preview page. This service isn’t link to any app so disabling or enabling this option makes no difference at all. It is preferred that you enable skipping, because there is no app to preview and no additional work for the redirect to happen.

Managing access to the firebase console currently used may get overwhelming and complicated. The interface is also not super user friendly (There shouldn’t be documentation like the one above for people to do something as simple as creating a dynamic short URL).

Creating an instance in a server with YOURLS on it can be a future project for the tech volunteer team. People with a sunrise email could easily register and manage their own URLs or people in hubs or across the movement could be invited to the service so that they don’t have to use a generic URL shortener.

Read more about YOURLS.

Christian tried and failed more than a couple of times to set up a server with YOURLS on GCP. So this project is postponed.


1) “Blacklisted URL Shorteners - Stop Using Them in Emails!,” Rebrandly, accessed August 17, 2019, http://support.rebrandly.com/hc/en-us/articles/228632488-Blacklisted-URL-Shorteners-Stop-Using-Them-in-Emails-.
2) the “s” in “https” stands for “secure”