A "complete" solution for TinyURL (Leetcode System Design)

  • 26

    Note: The solution is translated from the Segmentfault post over here. Thanks for liuqi627.

    Question Description

    Over here

    S: Scenario

    Long URL to short URL and reversed.

    N: Need (Assume the system is not massive if you are not sure)

    QPS (queries per second)

    • Daily User: 100M
    • Daily usage per person: (Write) long2short 0.1, (Read) short2long 1
    • Daily request: Write 10M, Read 100M
    • QPS: Since a day is 864000s approximately 100K.

    Write 100, Read 1K

    • Peak QPS: Write 200, Read 2K

    (Thousand level can be handled by a single SSD MySQL Machine)


    • 10M new mappings (long URL to short URL) per day
    • assume each mapping takes 100B in average
    • 1GB every day. 1 TB hard drive could stand for 3 years.

    Storage is not the problem for this kind of system. Service like Netflix may have storage issues.

    Through SN analysis, we could have a big picture of the system. In general, this system is not hard and could be handled by a single SSD Machine.

    A: API

    Only one service: URLService

    • Core (Business Logic) Layer:
    • Class: URLService
    • Interface:
    • URLService.encode(String long_url)
    • URLService.decode(String short_url)
    • Web Layer:
    • REST API:
    • GET: /{short_url}, return a http redirect response(301)
    • POST: goo.gl method - google shorten URL

    Request Body: {url=longUrl} e.g. {"longUrl": "http://www.google.com/"}
    Return OK(200), short_url is included in the data

    K: Data Access

    Step 1: Pick a storage structure

    SQL vs NoSQL?

    1. Does it need to support transactions? NoSQL does not support transaction.
    2. Do we need rich SQL query? NoSQL does not support as many queries as SQL.
    3. Pursue development efficiency? Most Web Framework supports SQL database very well (with ORM). It means fewer codes for the system.
    4. Do we need to use AUTO_INCREMENT ID? NoSQL couldn't do this. It only has a global unique Object_id.
    5. Does the system has a high requirement for QPS? NoSQL has high performance. For example, Memcached's QPS could reach million level, MondoDB does 10K level, MySQL only supports K level.
    6. How high is the system's scalability? SQL requires developers write their codes to scale, while NoSQL comes with them (sharding, replica).


    1. No -> NoSQL
    2. No -> NoSQL
    3. Doesn't matter because there are only a few codes. -> NoSQL
    4. Our algorithm needs AUTO_INCREMENT ID. -> SQL
    5. Write 200, Read 2K. Not high. -> SQL
    6. Not high. -> SQL

    System Algorithm

    OK, let's talk about the system algorithm. There are following solutions:

    1. Hash function:

      long_url -> md5/sha1

      • md5 convert a string into 128 binary bits, generally represented as 16 bytes hex:

      http://site.douban.com/chuan -> c93a360dc7f3eb093ab6e304db516653

      • sha1 convert a string into 160 binary bits, generally represented as 20 bytes hex:

      http://site.douban.com/chuan -> dff85871a72c73c3eae09e39ffe97aea63047094

    These two algorithms could make sure hash values are randomly distributed, but the conflicts are inevitable. Any hash algorithm could have inevitable conflicts.

    • Pros: Simple. We could take the first 6 chars of the converted string.

    • Cons: Conflicts.

      Solutions: 1. use (long_url + timestamp) as the hash function key. 2. When conflicts, regenerates the hash value(it's different because timestamp changes).

      Overall, when urls are over 1 billion, there would be a lot of conflicts and the efficiency could be very low.

    1. base62
      Take short_url as a 62 base notation. 6 bits could represent 62^6=57 billion.

    Each short_url represent a decimal digit. It could be the auto_increment_id in SQL database.

    public class URLService {
        HashMap<String, Integer> ltos;
        HashMap<Integer, String> stol;
        static int COUNTER;
        String elements;
        URLService() {
            ltos = new HashMap<String, Integer>();
            stol = new HashMap<Integer, String>();
            COUNTER = 1;
            elements = "0123456789abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ";
        public String longToShort(String url) {
            String shorturl = base10ToBase62(COUNTER);
            ltos.put(url, COUNTER);
            stol.put(COUNTER, url);
            return "http://tiny.url/" + shorturl;
        public String shortToLong(String url) {
            url = url.substring("http://tiny.url/".length());
            int n = base62ToBase10(url);
            return stol.get(n);
        public int base62ToBase10(String s) {
            int n = 0;
            for (int i = 0; i < s.length(); i++) {
                n = n * 62 + convert(s.charAt(i));
            return n;
        public int convert(char c) {
            if (c >= '0' && c <= '9')
                return c - '0';
            if (c >= 'a' && c <= 'z') {
                return c - 'a' + 10;
            if (c >= 'A' && c <= 'Z') {
                return c - 'A' + 36;
            return -1;
        public String base10ToBase62(int n) {
            StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
            while (n != 0) {
                sb.insert(0, elements.charAt(n % 62));
                n /= 62;
            while (sb.length() != 6) {
                sb.insert(0, '0');
            return sb.toString();

    Step 2: Database Schema

    One table (id, long_url). id is the primary key, ordered by long_url

    The basic system architecture:

    Browser <-> Web <-> Core <-> DB

    O: optimize

    How to improve the response speed?

    Improve the response speed between web server and database

    Use Memcached to improve response speed. When getting long_url, search in the cache first, then database. We could put 90% read request on the cache.

    Improve the response speed between web server and user's browser

    Different locations use different web server and cache server. All the areas share a DB used to match the users to the closest web server (through DNS) when they have a miss on the cache.

    What if we need one more MySQL machine?


    • running out of cache
    • More and more write requests
    • More and more cache misses


    Database Partitioning

    1. Vertical sharding 2. Horizontal sharding

    The best way is horizontal sharding.

    Currently table structure is (id, long_url). So, which column should be sharding key?

    An easy way is id modulo sharding.

    Here comes another question: How could multiple machines share a global auto_increment_id?

    Two ways: 1. use one more machine to maintain the id. 2. use zookeeper. Both suck.

    So, we do not use global auto_increment_id.

    The pro way is put the sharding key as the first byte of the short_url.

    Another way is to use consistent hashing to break the cycle into 62 pieces. It doesn't matter how many pieces because there probably would not be over 62 machines (it could be 360 or whatever). Each machine is responsible for the service in the part of the cycle.

    write long_url -> hash(long_url)%62 -> put long_url to the specific machine according to hash value -> generate short_url on this machine -> return short_url

    short_url request -> get the sharding key (first byte of the short_url) -> search in the corresponding machine based on sharding key -> return long_url

    Each time we add a new machine, put half of the range of the most used machine to the new machine.

    More Optimization

    Put Chinese DB in China, American DB in the United States. Use geographical information as the sharding key, e.g. 0 for Chinese websites, 1 for American websites.

  • 0

    how about this algorithm to encode and decode?

    can you combine with your solution?
    this algorithm doesn't use global unique id
    Looking forward to your answer?

  • 0

    Stefan prefers to solve the problem with fewer codes. TBH, I would use his codes to do so in the interview. As he wrote in the solution,

    code = ''.join(random.choice(Codec.alphabet) for _ in range(6))

    you could see he uses "random" module to generate the shortURL. Apparently, it will have much more conflicts compared with using hash function. Of course, you could easliy figure out a solution for Python by looking at the "hashlib". But, this is not the purpose of such a short coding interview. And I guess you should not reley on third party modules during the coding interview. But the story is different when you are doing a system design.

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