#280 Deciphering Shortened URLs

Driven by the increasing prevalence of social media you probably encounter many shortened URLs every day — whether you realize it or not. Originally intended to make sharing websites easier, these shortened URLS also disguise the true identity of where the links will take you. Obviously not knowing where a link is taking you until you click on it can be potentially dangerous.

There are two things that can keep you out of danger. The first is to simply be aware of how these URL shorteners obscure the destination of a link and second is knowing how to check where they are directing you BEFORE you click them.

Ways to Translate the ‘short link’ into a real URL

Most URL shortening services provide kind of “preview” feature that lets you see where a link will take you before actually going there. If you’re curious, you can learn how to preview shortened links from the most popular services here. However, with so many different services this quickly becomes way too burdensome to deal with.

A couple more efficient approaches include:

1. Longurl.com is a website that can “exapnd” those shortened URLs and show you were it is pointed, along with a few other details.

2. Long URL Please is a browser plug-in that simplifies the process of ‘translating’ shortened URLs by automatically converting the  short urls to their originals so that you don’t have to.

Have you ever been taken somewhere you didn’t expect by a shortened URL? Have you ever considered any ways of dealing with them other than either of these two options?

2 thoughts on “#280 Deciphering Shortened URLs

  1. @tomspiglanin says:

    Good info to know. I wrote on shortened URLs and how many get blocked by corporate firewalls. Yes, a short URL took me where I didn’t expect – I was mobile and took me to a Twitter-look-alike app authorization screen. On mobile this isn’t that unusual, but I was just savvy enough to question why I was getting that screen when I was using the bonafide Twitter app. Users beware – I suspect this is how that virus that generates the DM from infected users “someone is saying bad things about you” gains access.


    • Ah yes the good ol’ ‘blocked page’ I know it very well! The whole obfuscation of links thing is why many corp firewalls block them and another good reason for finding out the real, long version. Thanks Tom!


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