Photo credit: Robin Glauser

Shortened URLs make it easier to quickly reference complicated URLs and share them with other people. For example, https://url.major.io/reviews is definitely an easier method for sharing my Fedora package review list with other people instead of the full Bugzilla URL:

https://bugzilla.redhat.com/buglist.cgi?bug_status=__open__&component=Package%20Review&email1=mhayden%40redhat.com&emailreporter1=1&emailtype1=substring&list_id=12512813&product=Fedora&query_format=advanced

It also avoids those situations where you share a URL only to find that a chat system gobbled up special characters and your URL arrives broken on the other end.

However, most URL shorteners depend on a web server and possibly a database server to serve up shortened URLs. This is a really quick setup that nearly any system administrator has done a hundred times or more, but what about the ongoing maintenance and updates? What about redundancy? How much will it cost?

That’s simply too much work. I went on the hunt for an alternative.

Shortening only with GitHub

My first stop was nelsontky’s gh-pages-url-shortener. It uses GitHub issues to manage URLs, but the author mentions that the solution is a bit hacky. I need something more reliable.

Shortening with Cloudflare Pages’ redirects

Cloudflare offers redirects via a simple text file on its Pages service. (This blog is hosted via Cloudflare pages and it’s been extremely reliable and fast.)

The only downside is the limits applied to the redirects:

A project is limited to 100 total redirects. Each redirect declaration has a 1000-character limit. Malformed definitions are ignored. If there are multiple redirects for the same source path, the topmost redirect is applied.

If you think you’ll need less than 100 redirects and your destination URLs are under 1,000 characters, this might work for you. Head on over to Deploying your site and get going!

What if you want (nearly) limitless redirects?

Nearly limitless redirects with Cloudflare Workers

More Googling led to a blog post titled World’s Simplest URL Shortener using Cloudflare Workers. In the post, Patrick Reader lays out a simple javascript handler that takes the URI provided, compares it to a list of JSON keys, and then returns the destination URL.

His instructions in the post get you up and running quickly. He also offers up a link to his own GitHub repo so you can fork it and get done quickly. The urls.json file expects the keys to be short URIs and the values to be the long URLs, like this:

{
  "": "https://example.com/myblog",
  "recipes": "https://example.com/long/url/to/my/favorite/recipe",
  "twitter": "https://twitter.com/myusername"
}

I decided to build out my repository with wrangler’s generate command and then brought over Patrick’s script. Your wrangler.toml will need a few adjustments to get going:

  1. Set type to webpack.
  2. account_id: Find your account ID by going to the Cloudflare dashboard and clicking on Workers on the left side. (Look for Account ID on the right side.)
  3. Set workers_dev to false if you want to use your own domain.
  4. Set route to the URL matcher you want to apply to the Worker. I use url.major.io as my domain for my URL shortener, so my route is url.major.io/*.
  5. Your zone_id is also in the Cloudflare dashboard. Click Websites on the left side, click your domain name, and look for Zone ID on the right side.

Manual work is not my thing, so I wanted to get GitHub Actions to do the work for me when I changed my list of short URLs. For that, I first needed an API key from Cloudflare. For that, go to your API Tokens page at Cloudflare and do these steps:

  • Click Create Token.
  • Click Use template to the right of Edit Cloudflare Workers.
  • Under Zone Resources, choose the domain name where you want to use the URL shortener.
  • Select your account under Account Resources.
  • Click Continue to summary and copy your API key.
  • Run over to your repo in GitHub, click Settings, Secrets, then Actions.
  • Click New repository secret.
  • Use CF_API_TOKEN as the Name and fill in your API key as the Value.
  • Click Add secret.

All that’s left is to drop in a GitHub Actions workflow to make it all automated. You can copy the workflow file from my repository:

name: Deploy

on:
  push:
    branches:
      - main

jobs:
  deploy:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    name: Deploy
    steps:
      - uses: actions/checkout@v3
      - name: Publish
        uses: cloudflare/wrangler-action@1.3.0
        with:
          apiToken: ${{ secrets.CF_API_TOKEN }}

Each time you change a URL in urls.json, GitHub Actions assembles your application for Cloudflare Workers and ships it to Cloudflare. You can edit your URLs right in the GitHub web editor, save them, and they’ll be active in a minute or two!

Enjoy! 🎉