Thanks in large part to Twitter, URL shorteners, love them or hate them, are almost ubiquitous on the internet today.

When it comes to URL shorteners, Bitly was one of the early pioneers that took advantage of Twitter’s growing popularity to position itself smack dab in the center of all of the social line sharing that Twitter is so often used for.

Despite competition, Bitly is still a major player in the URL shortening space, and if you use Twitter, chances are you’ve seen a URL today — or a URL shortening domain name that is powered by Bitly Pro, a paid version of its service.

Amongst other things, gives customers the ability to use their own domain names. Econsultancy’s shortener, for instance, runs on Bitly Pro.

Yesterday, the company announced that Bitly Pro is now Bitly, meaning individuals and companies with a free account interested in creating their own URL shorteners with their own custom domain names can do so at no cost by setting up the domain in their accounts and pointing it to Bitly’s nameservers.

While Bitly isn’t ditching its paid offerings entirely (it still has an Enterprise package), it’s clear that the company’s move here is designed to preserve the company’s position in the URL shortening space as the company faces increasing competition.

After all, with Twitter, for instance, automatically shortening URLs on its own, independent players like Bitly could find themselves marginalized.

Bitly’s offer to host custom domain shorteners is good news for smaller companies looking to create a brand presence in social media.

Although shortened URLs aren’t all that attractive from a technical perspective, the fact is that, for better or worse, they’re a part of the link ecosystem that isn’t going away.

So if your links are going to get dressed up in the social media sphere anyway, your company might as well take control of its links’ wardrobe and generate analytics data to boot.