This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page gives answers to some common questions we get asked about maw.cx, as well as some that we never actually get asked but think people ought to be interested in!

Ways to use maw.cx

About using maw.cx

Technology and architecture

Ownership, staff and business model

Spam and abuse

Ways to use maw.cx

Can I use maw.cx straight from my favourites list?

Yes you can. Just bookmark the following link: Shorten with maw.cx. When you click the link in your favourites list, maw.cx will provide a shortened link for the page you're on.

Please note that you need to bookmark this link (in most browsers either a right click menu option or done by dragging it to your bookmarks menu) - just clicking on it will try to shorten a link for the page you're on (in this case the maw.cx FAQ) and throw an error because of that.

The bookmark requires Javascript to be enabled in your browser (usually on by default). You can safely ignore any security warnings that pop up when adding the bookmark - these are because the link contains Javascript code.

Can I use maw.cx from my browser's search box?

Yes. If you visit our homepage your browser should give you the option to add maw.cx as a search provider (often this is accessed from a dropdown menu near the search box). Obviously maw.cx isn't a search engine, but once you've done this if you put any URL into the search box with maw.cx selected, we'll shorten it for you.

Is there a maw.cx plugin for my browser?

There are 3rd party plugins available for most web browsers that support our service. See our software page for details.

Is there any other software I can use to create maw.cx links?

Please check our software section for a list of 3rd party software that makes use of maw.cx.

Can I use maw.cx from the application or webpage I'm making?

In general yes. Our developer documentation (you must be logged in) has the information you need for this as well as some handy examples.

What is a QR code and why would I want to generate one?

A QR (Quick Response) code is a two dimensional barcode. When you generate one, it contains the maw.cx URL that you generated it for. If somebody scans it with a compatible device (such as an Android smartphone) they can go to your link. You could place the QR code in a magazine or on a business card. It's debateable whether this is more useful than just writing the shortened URL at the moment, but we think QR codes are cool technology and that more interesting uses for them will appear.

About using maw.cx

How can I view statistics on who has visited my shortened link?

Visit the shortened link's preview page either by adding a "slash info" (/info) to the end of the link then visiting the link.

How long do maw.cx links I create last?

We don't remove shortened URLs as long as they're created in accordance with our terms & conditions. As such we expect them to last forever, excepting technical issues and other difficulties covered in our terms.

How long will my shortened URLs be?

Our automatically generated URLs are typically 4-6 characters long (not including the beginning https://) and will remain that long for the foreseeable future since we can store many billions of URLs of this length.

What custom URLs are allowed?

The custom part of the URL (everything after https://maw.cx/) must be between 4 and 30 characters long. Custom URLs are case sensitive and can only consist of upper and lower case letters, numbers and the underscore (_) symbol. Non-English characters aren't allowed in custom URLs (but you can shorten URLs containing them). We don't have any other restrictions and don't plan to appoint ourselves the moral guardians of the Internet, so things like rude words are allowed.

Are maw.cx's shortened URLs unique?

In most cases yes (shortening the same URL multiple times will get you the same shortened link back). This doesn't apply to custom shortened URLs (because we use the shortened URL you supply) or to URLs with stats enabled where we always generate a fresh link to make sure the stats we collect are specifically for you.

Can I delete the shortened URL I made or point it somewhere else?

Yes. Our shortened links are not permanent once created. The main reason that don't let others offer this is that it could be abused (e.g. spammers could create innocuous links and later point them somewhere malicious) but we have a strong Spam Check runned on every URL in our database by Google Safe Browsing & Phishtank Technique.

Can I shorten non-web URLs (e.g. ftp://)?

Yes. maw.cx can shorten URLs that use most common protocols. This includes all on the IANA list of URI schemes except data: (as it was widely abused). We check schemes against a whitelist to cut down on junk submissions - if something you want to use isn't supported, get in touch and we'll consider adding it.

What is the longest URL I can shorten with maw.cx?

You can shorten URLs up to 5,000 characters long. This is an arbitrary limit we've imposed to prevent misuse rather than an architectural limitation. Hopefully we won't see web addresses this long any time soon!

Does maw.cx require Flash/Javascript?

Basic URL shortening is available without Javascript support, but more advanced features such as custom shortened URLs require it. Flash support is required to view graphs in the statistics pages for shortened URLs, but isn't used for anything else.

What exactly do the "Lower case" and "Lower case pronounceable" radio buttons do?

When a custom shortened URL has not been specified, we generate shortened URLs using a mixture of upper and lower case letters (the links are case sensitive) and numbers. The "Lower case" radio button restricts this to lower case letters and numbers. The "Lower case pronounceable" radio button restricts this further to lower case letters only and tries to generate something vaguely pronounceable using a basic algorithm which alternates vowels and consonants.

Technology and architecture

What hardware does maw.cx run on?

maw.cx runs on a selection of fine servers provided by Our Hosting. We run several (the exact number varies) frontend web servers behind a load balancer that service incoming requests as well as caching some data. These are hosted on virtual servers (VPS) to make it easy for us to launch more as required. We also run a number of backend database servers (currently 1) which use powerful dedicated machines. Data on all the shortened URLs we're providing and their accompanying statistics is distributed across these backend servers.

What software does maw.cx use?

The software that helps make maw.cx possible includes: -

  • nginx (web server)
  • MySQL (relational database)
  • mongoDB (document-oriented database)
  • PHP (scripting language)
  • APC (PHP cache)

See the acknowledgements section for more on packages and 3rd party software we use.

How does maw.cx work?

The principle behind maw.cx is pretty simple. When you shorten a URL, maw.cx stores the original long version in our database along with its new shortened alias. We either automatically generate an alias that's not in use or use the one you've specified (for custom shortened URLs).

When somebody visits the new shortened URL, maw.cx extracts the alias from the URL and looks it up in our database. We can then pull out the original URL and either redirect the visitor there immediately or display a preview page, depending on their preferences. We also log that the visit happened so that we can include it when we update our statistics. All of this happens extremely quickly.

Although the principle is pretty simple, the reality of serving hundreds or thousands of requests every second is a little more complex. We do things like caching details on frequently used URLs on our web servers so that we can serve them very efficiently as soon as a request comes in.

Ownership, staff and business model

Who owns maw.cx?

maw.cx is owned by Mohamed Galal, an egyptian student who lived 10 Years in Germany (2001-2011). The site is still maintained by its creator.

Who created maw.cx?

maw.cx was created and is still maintained by Mohamed Galal, a freelance web developer/programmer/entrepreneur/physics student who occasionally accidentally creates something useful. His ambition is never to get out of bed before midday. Here's a link to his infrequently updated and almost entirely irrelevant Instagram Account.

How do I know maw.cx won't shut down/be filled with advertising?

maw.cx is owned by and supported by Mohamed Galal, an egyptian web developer who has been in business since 2015. His plan to support it as a free service indefinitely and keep it free from 3rd party advertising. See our ethical policy for further details.

Spam and abuse

What action is maw.cx taking to prevent its shortened links being used for spam/abusive purposes?

We're one of the most proactive URL shorteners in combating service abuse. Please read our spam policy for a list of some of the many measures we're taking to prevent abuse of our service.

Why was my shortened link disabled?

Check whether the link's content or the way you used it violated our terms. If not, the URL may have been added to a blacklist that we consult - if you try to create a new link with the same destination our site should tell you which of the blacklists we use the URL is on so that you can attempt to get it removed. If it's inappropriately on our internal blacklist or if none of these things apply, please contact us so that we can look into it since mistakes are very occasionally made (we can easily reinstate disabled links if so).

Can I donate money towards maw.cx?

maw.cx is a free service and always be, so you can help us improve our service by a small -one time- donation. Thanks for the kind offer though!

Can I/my company advertise on maw.cx?

Unfortunately not. We want to keep maw.cx as fast and clean for our users as possible, so aren't allowing any 3rd party advertising on the site.

Does maw.cx use 301 redirects/does it give my links credit for SEO?

Yes, maw.cx always uses 301 (permanent) instead of 302 (temporary) redirects, so does pass on SEO credit to your link

Why does the counter on the front page sometimes jump around/increase a lot very quickly?

Because the only accesses that the counter "knows" about instantly are those served by the same web server that's handling your request. Once every minute the counter will factor in the counts from our other servers to get the real value, which causes it to jump up. It can also sometimes jump around or appear to count down if your requests are handled by different servers.

What does maw.cx stand for?

maw.cx, which stands for "Making Internet Do Your Professional Work".