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A (very) brief history of go links

What’s a “go link”? It’s an internal URL shortener common to many tech companies. If you’re on the company network, you can type in go/keyword in your browser, and that will redirect you to some other site.

According to the tweets below and this github project, go links originally came from Google (hence: go), where they were created by @bstaffin. If you’re reading this, thanks! 🙇

They aren’t much to write home about, but fill a useful niche, and once you get used to them it’s hard to imagine life without them. They went viral, in a way, as many tech companies ended up building their own version of it, e.g. Square, Facebook, Twitter, Stripe, etc. Some added their own personal touch: instead of go, Dropbox uses drl, and Lyft uses go.lyft.

The first time I saw a go link myself was at my first hack week at Square, years ago. A couple of folks had decided it was time Square had its own go links.

As a hack week project it had plenty of quirks. For one thing, it was written in PHP, despite Square being a Ruby and Java shop. Someone on the IT team wanted to troll engineers into writing PHP code. Which backfired, because they eventually came to own the service. Another oddity was that you couldn’t edit links after the fact without talking directly to IT. Perhaps a feature, and not a bug.

One quirk in particular added a touch of humor: There wasn’t a way to see all the links. This meant there were easter eggs, links like go/at and go/pher that pointed to, well, a goat gif and a gopher gif respectively; and, notoriously, go/d, which pointed to the creator’s profile in the company directory. There were also some that were whispered around the company, like one that pointed to the list of employee departures.

If you’ve used go links at your company and have interesting or funny stories, I’d love to hear from you! Or, if you’re interested in setting it up for your team without any fuss, you should check out Goat.

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