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30 Comments

From idea to 350K Users - Link Shortener Extension

Hi, my name is Tim Leland and I am the creator of Link Shortener Extension which has over 350,000 active users.

My goal was to make creating short links a one-click process. This led me to create a browser extension that makes it super easy to create, share, and track short URLs. The idea for the extension came when I read that Google was shutting down its URL shortener service back in March 2019, I decided that there would be a big demand for another link shortener service and extension.

Once the browser extension started gaining traction, I quickly realized, I needed my own URL shortener service that was reliable and had the features I wanted. This led me to create TLY. T.LY has over 8 million short URLs and has tracked over 70 million clicks. T.LY is an affordable alternative to other URL shorteners and offers features such as custom domains, stats, smart URLs, and more.

TLY

When looking for ideas for your next browser extension, take a look at the top 100 extensions and see which ones could be improved. In my case, I saw that Google was killing their URL shortener and the most popular URL Shortener extension only used Google’s shortener and has over a million users. I knew that when it no longer worked, people would look for alternatives. This allowed my extension to grow rapidly and reach 350,000+ active users.
TLY Extension

Where can we go to learn more?

  1. 12

    "When looking for ideas for your next browser extension, take a look at the top 100 extensions and see which ones could be improved."

    This is some of the best advice you can give a hacker/maker/entrepreneur about how to find an idea. So I wanted to highlight it. Definitely going to check out the extension!

    1. 2

      Thanks! Yes, there are definitely other popular extensions that have been forgotten by the developer that could be improved. Look for extensions with a high user count that have not been updated for months/years.

    2. 2

      Thanks for the wonderful advice :*

    3. 1

      I agree, that that is a clever idea. But for example I have no shortage of ideas. Also Chrome extension is one of them.
      I will look at T.LY as an inspiration of running this kind of product.

  2. 3

    I really liked your advice “When looking for ideas for your next browser extension, take a look at the top 100 extensions and see which ones could be improved”. Actually startup ideas IMO are overrated. Whenever I ask someone regarding how to find or get ideas they start telling me to start thinking out of the box and idea should be very unique. But I am observing and researching few startups on various blogs and tech websites. I observed that very few around 1% have unique ideas or some out of the box solution.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Following this has worked for me so far to build two semi-popular extensions. When picking an idea just make sure you have a plan to get people to pay for pro features etc. Extensions are tough to monetize because most people expect them to be free. My challenge is converting free users to paid. Good luck!

  3. 2

    Hey Tim! awesome stuff. It's always great to see stories from successful extensions.

    You mentioned a lot of the traffic comes from organic search. Do you have any tips for store listing optimizations? Do you think that contributes to your overall user acquisition?

    Keep it going dude!

    1. 1

      Thanks, @miguel! I've spent time experimenting to optimize the extension store listings. It's hard to tell how the web store ranks search results and honestly, I think the search features in the web store is not very good for finding extensions. Regular Google searches are where you should focus vs in the web store. I think most of my traffic comes from google and my extensions tend to rank pretty high in search results.

      Another tip, when building your extension listing, take a look at the extensions with millions of users. I have taken ideas from Grammarly and Honey on how they describe their extensions.

      1. 2

        Thanks for your advice. I agree Extension Store search is not on par with other stores like Apple Store or Google Play Store

        That's a great tip, taking a look at other extensions with millions of users. There's definitely something you can learn from the big ones.

        Keep it up with your extension! you're doing great!

  4. 2

    congrats!
    Another benefit: you're all set for the system design build a url shortener question now :)

    1. 1

      Haha yes! Very good point and I think I am qualified to answer this question :)

  5. 2

    Are most people using it for free?

    Your revenue seems to be pretty low compared to the number of users and traffic on your site.

    1. 1

      Yes, the challenging part is converting users but it's proving tougher than I expected. I want to always keep the extension free. If you have any ideas, let me know :).

      1. 3

        You have huge traffic and hundreds of thousands of people using it at least once a month.

        Try to look into running ads. Ezoic.com and Mediavine pays a lot. followchain.org makes more than $30k from Mediavine every month with less traffic than T.LY

        Note: Google ads doesn't pay as much

        1. 1

          Do you have more examples of sites which doing revenue from ads ?
          Thanks

        2. 1

          Thanks for the feedback! That is an interesting idea curious as to what tools you are using to see traffic?

            1. 1

              Revenue data on Ahref/Alexa about Followchain earning from Mediavine can't be always true. Those can be just estimate based on estimated traffic.

              1. 3

                Read to understand. We are talking about where I got traffic info from not revenue info.

                The founder of Followchain.org share revenue data on Twitter. That's where I got it.

    2. 1

      Where did you see their revenue numbers?

      1. 1

        Most likely he is talking about T.LY

      2. 1

        On the poster's profile

  6. 1

    great progess so far! so proud of you man!

  7. 1

    google is blocking a lot of short linking websites, because of spam. And people want to use short links because it's nice to look.
    Great work.. and appreciate you.

  8. 1

    Thanks for posting! I love reading about other people's success with chrome extensions. Would you share more about how to attract all of your users? Did they just find you through organic search traffic in the app store?

    1. 1

      Thanks! I believe most came from organic search traffic and building an extension that actually worked with limited permission requirements. Many of the other URL shortener extensions required access to all websites and would often not work when shorteners would go down. I also think positioning my URL shortener extension as the best alternative when Google shut down its service was what helped it grow so quickly. So the timing of when I made the extension was important.

      I also use my other extensions to help promote each other on my blog. My Weather Extension has over 200k users. I try to cross-promote them when it makes sense.

  9. 1

    Are you generating any revenue out of it?

    If yes, How? How much?

    1. 2

      Nothing from the extension directly but I do from T.LY

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