Tinyurl seems like a ridiculous idea for a website. The service is so simple that any competent hacker I know could write the central feature in under half an hour. It's not even original, in the sense that hashing long keys to short keys is one of the oldest tricks in computer science.

Yet writing it as a web service was original: Tinyurl is an Alexa top-1000 site. That's more traffic and usage than 90% of the startups I've met have (or will probably ever have). Not bad for what couldn't have been more than an afternoon's work. I don't believe it's the only simple utility that should exist, and yet currently doesn't. It opens up the tantalizing possibility that the right little hack could be used by millions of people.

The best idea in this vein I've had so far applies the tinyurl concept to the page itself. Most pages on the internet consist of a tiny patch of content, surrounded by acres of ancillary and mostly unnecessary wrapping. Given a url, the utility returns an embed for the actual content portion; the way this works on YouTube, Alexa, Flickr, or Justin.tv(1) should be obvious. I can imagine using this kind of a utility in several contexts in Justin.tv, and obviously it would quickly become a favorite with linkjackers everywhere (2).

Unfortunately, unlike tinyurl, this project would probably take a week to do right, and I don't really have the time right now. So I doubt I'll get around to writing this, but I hope someone else does. Let me know how it goes, so I can claim credit for all your hard work.

1. Sorry for the plug.

2. As tinyurl is the friend of the shock-site trickster.