TechSpot: Preview Shortened URLs and Avoid Security Threats

Today's ubiquitous URL shorteners have seen a dramatic increase in popularity the last couple of years – much of it driven by the rise in the popularity of Twitter itself. They are great for keeping character count at a minimum or to make sharing easier. Some even bring a few unique features to the table, like enabling statistics or the ability to select your own keyword, but as convenient as shorteners are they also introduce some new issues.

There's significant variance from one service to another when it comes to uptime, there is also the fact that the process involves using an HTTP redirect so latency is an issue. But perhaps more importantly is the fact that they obscure the target address and thus may be used to trick users to an unexpected destination.

This means users are susceptible to something as innocent as being rickrolled to potentially much more harmful exposure, like being redirected to scamming websites or malware-ridden pages. Fortunately, there are several ways to peek behind a shortened URL to see exactly where the link will take you before clicking it, so let's take a quick look at a few of them.

Read: Preview Shortened URLs and Avoid Security Threats

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plus, wasn't it about a year ago that the FBI or some other agency was arresting people, or seriously investigating people, who went to certain web sites? someone could cause a lot of problems posting one of those sites with a shortener...

FBI had a child porn internet trap. People that clicked on the ad banner were sometimes raided / arrested just for the act of clicking on the link banner.

The worse problem is when URL shorteners go out of business. Imagine a corporation having a long history of shortened links on Twitter, and then suddenly that shortener decides to say "Nah, this isn't a business model we can make profitable", and shut it down. Disaster.

The Internet Archive has started an initiative to alleviate this problem (http://technology.timesonline...._and_web/article6947344.ece), but it's still a bandaid solution to a problem that is pretty much 100% Twitter's fault. Before Twitter, these services were obscure for niche uses like super-long URL's, but with Twitter's limits, they exploded in usage. Thanks for that heritage, guys.

I understand that the reasoning behind Twitter's limits is to make the messages fit in an SMS message -- however, the obvious solution for that is to not use short message limits at all on Twitter, and instead simply shorten the message that get sent away to mobile phones, send it, and make it show the tweet if clicked on. Still making use of shorteners, but at least only SMS users of Twitter would be impacted. Which aren't even that common, given today's smartphones and Twitter clients.

Northgrove said,
The worse problem is when URL shorteners go out of business. Imagine a corporation having a long history of shortened links on Twitter, and then suddenly that shortener decides to say "Nah, this isn't a business model we can make profitable", and shut it down. Disaster....

However, In Twitter, links are shortened by a Twitter service now. Also most people use 1 of three things to shorten.

1) Bit.ly
2) Goo.gl
3) There own

For number 3 look at Gizmodo on Twitter. When they shorten, they use http://gizmo.do/******. A lot of companies are doing that. Especially the ones that post there own story. What's great about the bit.ly service is if you were shortening a Gizmodo article, it wouldn't come up as bit.ly it would be Gizmo.do.

Now I don't see number 1 and 2 ever going out of business in the foreseeable future. Especially number 2. And if option number 3 went out of business well there links are dead anyway so who cares.

I really hate it when people use URL shorteners. I mean, haven't people heard of copy and paste, or embedding links?

Raa said,
I really hate it when people use URL shorteners. I mean, haven't people heard of copy and paste, or embedding links?

You obviously don't know why shortened URLs are used then. When you are limited to 160 characters for a text message (140 Characters for Twitter) am I going to text you the link "http://www.neowin.net/news/tec...avoid-security-threats"; with a message that says hey check this out? Or am I going to send you this http://goo.gl/tqBXl

Please, don't tell me "I don't use Twitter". Frankly the world doesn't care and other use it. When they use Twitter they shorten links and will use the same shortened links on Facebook.

I hope this clarifies some of the uses for shortened URLs.

Well, I do have Twitter, but no I don't use it. Point aside, my case still stands.
It's easier to say to someone "Hey, check your email, I sent you <secure link>". I mean, who doesn't have email on their phone/pda/laptop/fridge/garage door thesedays?

Using the cop-out excuse that "Twitter forced me to use 160 characters" is no reason to stop practising safe computing. I deal with it all the time, a little common sense is needed from a lot of people!!

Raa said,
Well, I do have Twitter, but no I don't use it. Point aside, my case still stands.
It's easier to say to someone "Hey, check your email, I sent you <secure link>". I mean, who doesn't have email on their phone/pda/laptop/fridge/garage door thesedays?

Using the cop-out excuse that "Twitter forced me to use 160 characters" is no reason to stop practising safe computing. I deal with it all the time, a little common sense is needed from a lot of people!!

Think classrooms, talks, meets in the street etc - "hey, go to << spam >>/mylink rather than hey if you go to this website then click this then cl...."

Raa said,
Well, I do have Twitter, but no I don't use it. Point aside, my case still stands.
It's easier to say to someone "Hey, check your email, I sent you <secure link>". I mean, who doesn't have email on their phone/pda/laptop/fridge/garage door thesedays?

Using the cop-out excuse that "Twitter forced me to use 160 characters" is no reason to stop practising safe computing. I deal with it all the time, a little common sense is needed from a lot of people!!

[tl;dr] They're a necessary evil [/tl;dr]

How exactly do I email my link the whole of the twittersphere? I don't like URL shortners, and I think they're going to destroy the internet (no really they are, what happens if TinyURL shuts down and millions of shortened links are rendered useless?), but they do have their uses.

If you were a teacher in class, and you wanted your students to view a web link, would you be happy to write "http://www.ibm.com/developerwo...dgr-lnxw07AJAX-Request"; on the board, or would you rather that you wrote http://bit.ly/ecwiHx on the board? One of those two links is going to give you arthritis if you write it on the board .

Raa said,
Well, I do have Twitter, but no I don't use it. Point aside, my case still stands.
It's easier to say to someone "Hey, check your email, I sent you <secure link>". I mean, who doesn't have email on their phone/pda/laptop/fridge/garage door thesedays?

Using the cop-out excuse that "Twitter forced me to use 160 characters" is no reason to stop practising safe computing. I deal with it all the time, a little common sense is needed from a lot of people!!

I'm sorry but the younger generation does not use email. They are on Facebook, Twitter and of course texting. 2 of the 3 require link shortening to get the point across.

If you are like me, I don't like to type the same thing three times. I Tweet it and copy it and paste it to Facebook and Google Voice Text. Sorry it is a lot easier.

It's called "Expand," but thanks. I wouldn't have corrected it, but I saw this and didn't click the link then later looked for "Extend" and didn't find it.

Thanks so much though