Hey there, bit.ly. You've been garnering your share of praise--and jealous criticism--lately. It's barely past your first birthday and you've raised a few million in venture capital and are going steady with Twitter, one of the hottest sites of the moment. Your competitors publicly proclaim you as unbeatable. What's your secret, bit.ly?
I think it might be your API.
Sure, lots of other URL shorteners have APIs, but you launched with one ready to go. You also made it super easy to use your API. No signup, just a simple, RESTful interface. You might have been just as popular if you launched with only an API.
When you launched, you had equally impressive Front-end features. You made shortening a link a cinch. And I could use my own label for the link, something that TinyURL didn't even add until a week before you came around. But you also provide analytics and archive the page in case it goes down.
All this functionality is also available in the API. And it's the API that has made you most popular. That's how Twitter uses you and now Google, Typepad and more. Before these big sites found you, many users already had via desktop Twitter clients, which integrate with you. And you even ran a fun, successful developer contest.
It doesn't even matter that you're spitting out six character labels for your URLs now. And I honestly haven't given much thought to how you're going to make money. I'm just happy you're around and that when someone asks why they should have an API, I can point to you as an example of doing it right.