My colleagues at Logos have launched http://ref.ly, a URL shortening service for Bible references: see this blog post. It provides the convenience of TinyURL (turning long unreadable URLs into something much more manageable), but unlike that service also provides readable, understandable content. Once you get past the prefix, you won’t have any trouble figuring out what verse http://ref.ly/Mk4.9 is referring to.
If you’re a Twitter person trying to shoehorn your message into 140-character tweets, you’ll like the fact that this gives you a brief and unambiguous way to both specify a Bible reference and link to the content behind it (the references resolve to the actual verse text at bible.logos.com). Since addressability matters, this is a good thing.
But it has precisely the same utility even if you’re not a Twitterhead (i’m not):
- it clearly marks a string of characters as a Bible reference
- it also normalizes the reference into a form that can be automatically processed
While it’s not quite a microformat, it’s really only a small step away from things like bibleref. In particular, if lots of people start using ref.ly references, it will be possible to process that content and understand things like what verses are most popular.
What’s more, editors that recognize and automatically link URLs (like MS Outlook for HTML-based email, and MS Word) will now automatically make Bible links for you (like RefTagger does for blog posts), as long as you’re willing to tack on “http://ref.ly/” and live with the slightly non-traditional format. You don’t need to know anything about how to make a hyperlink in HTML: just a little extra syntax (14 characters, to be precise) moves these references toward much greater usefulness.