Bitly: Lessons Learned Building a Distributed System that Handles 6 Billion Clicks a Month
Monday, July 14, 2014 at 9:00AM
Todd Hoff in Example

Have you ever wondered how bitly makes money? A URL shortener can’t be that hard to write, right? Sean O'Connor, Lead Application Developer at bitly, answers the how can bitly possibly make money question immediately in a talk he gave on bitly at the Bacon conference.

Writing a URL shortner that works is easy, says Sean, writing one that scales and is highly available, is not so easy.

Bitly doesn’t make money with a Shortening as a Service service, bitly makes money on an analytics product that mashes URL click data with with data they crawl from the web to help customers understand what people are paying attention to on the web. 

Analytics products began as a backend service that crawled web server logs. Logs contained data from annotated links along with cookie data to indicate where on a page a link was clicked, who clicked it, what the link was, etc. But the links all went back to the domain of the web site. The idea of making links go to a different domain than your own so that a 3rd party can do the analytics is a scary proposition, but it’s also kind of genius.

While this talk is not on bitly’s architecture, it is a thoughtful exploration on the nature of distributed systems and how you can solve bigger than one box problems with them.

Perhaps my favorite lesson from his talk is this one (my gloss):

SOA + queues + async messaging is really powerful. This approach isolates components, lets work happen concurrently, lets boxes fail independently, while still having components be easy to reason about.

I also really like his explanation for why event style messages are better than command style messages. I’ve never heard it put that way before.

Sean talks from a place of authentic experience. If you are trying to make a jump from a single box mindset to a multibox way of thinking, this talk is well worth watching. 

So let’s see what Sean has to say about distributed systems...

Stats

Source

Platform 

Note, that these were just what was mentioned in the talk, it’s not a comprehensive list.

On the Nature of Distributed Systems 

Strategies for Implementing Distributed Systems

Service Oriented Architecture

There’s no one monolithic bitly application. There are dozens of small services that talk to each other over the network.

Asynchronous Messaging

Making Services Play Nice

Monitoring 

Lessons Learned 

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