Interview Hilary Mason Chief Scientist bitly

In this interview with Hilary Mason, chief scientist of bitly, we discuss the growth of the bitly API and the steps that were taken to reach this point. The bitly API is one of the most widely known APIs and they have recently launched some new APIs.

Ajay- What are some of the trends that you see based on bitly API usage and traffic? how does that compare to non API traffic.

Hilary- We see all kinds of interesting things in our data! Did you know that the half-life of sports links is shorter than any other kind of link?

Ajay- the bitly with a plus sign is both a simple and elegant way to look at the analytics of a link. What was the motivation for analytics added to the services to bitly customer (besides the obvious URL shortening advantage)

Hilary- bitly has always had analytics! We see bitly as the secret weapon to help you be awesome on the internet, and realtime analytics is a big part of that.

Ajay- are you totally dependent on twitter's terms and conditions. or what are some of the steps you have taken to diversify your social media input sources (like google plus, or Facebook , or Apple Ping, or Microsoft spaces)

Hilary- bitly is not dependent on twitter, though this is a common misconception due to our early relationship with Twitter. You share a bitly link on Twitter just as you can share any other link, but these days bitly links are shared widely across all social networks. Data generated from links on twitter makes up less than 10% of our data. Some of our data sources are Facebook, Tumblr, email, IM, and many other places where people share links with other people.

Ajay- Describe the new bitly social APIs

Hilary- There are three kinds of functionality you can now access:

True Realtime Search

Run a query and get back the top URLs and stories for that query right now. Queries can be specific phrases, like “obama”, or filtering criteria, like “stories about food being read by people in Brooklyn”.

Attention Spikes

Search requires that you know what you’re look for, but maybe you just want to see what the world is paying attention to. Our bursts API returns the current phrases that are receiving a burst in attention beyond what we would expect. For example, “giant squid” is bursting today because of this story: Giant Squid Captured on Film. Bursts automatically aggregates multiple articles about the same thing together, which you can see on the realtime story pages.

Metadata about URLs

Finally, we do quite a bit of analysis on the content of each URL. You can now query on a URL basis for keywords, topics, content, language, and location relevance. Generating this kind of metadata is difficult problem faced by anyone who wants to build an application on links. We’ve solved it, now there’s no need for you to!

Full Documentation is available on our dev site and in our Python library, and if you’re in New York stay tuned for our API LAUNCH HACKATHON next week in our office.

Ajay- How would the bitly api benefit an enterprise customer that generates a lot of content and who doesnot want to go the url shortening way?

Hilary- Bitly Enterprise ( offers branded URLs and advanced analytics for customers who use social media professionally.

About Hilary Mason:

Hilary spends her days playing with bitly data. Her work crosses pure research, math, and development of product-focused systems.She's also a co-founder of HackNY, a non-profit organization that connects talented student hackers from around the world with startups in NYC.

About bitly:

bitly is the easiest and most fun way to save, share and discover links from around the web.  bitly is available via website, browser extensions, mobile web, and numerous third-party tools integrated with a open public API. bitly also powers more than 10,000 custom short URLs and offers an enterprise analytics Platform that helps web publishers and brands grow their social media traffic.