How to check shortened URLs for safety
Link shortening services are great for squeezing long URLs into tiny places. A shortened link is a URL with fewer characters that redirects to a longer destination URL. Many reasons exist for wanting to shorten a link. They are easier to type and remember, and are a method for tracking clicks. Shortening a link often masks the original link, and its true destination becomes unknown. The need to check shortened URLs for safety arises from this condition.
Short links are easier to share than long links. Web developers often append URLs with query strings. A query string added to a URL can extend the length of a link by hundreds of characters. That is displeasing from an aesthetic standpoint. Links of that size are often truncated or divided when they reach the recipient. Such links can point to useless, invalid locations. Shortening services remedy the long link issue by reducing links into 10 to 30 character URLs.
Shortened links are also useful in applications that impose character limits. Twitter imposes a 140 character limit per message. They created the t.co shortening service to shorten links shared using its platform. Shortened links in tweets have a 23 characters limit. The links use the t.co domain name. This allows Twitter to count the clicks on each link, and to check it for malicious content. Twitter will check shortened URLs for safety against a list of sites that could be harmful. If a link points to possible malicious content, Twitter displays a warning message.
Some link shortening services provide opportunities to preview the destination of a shortened link. If you want to preview the destination link of a Bitly.com URL, just add a plus sign to the end of their shortened link. For example, preview the destination link of bit.ly/1bhjUN8 by visiting bit.ly/1bhjUN8+ instead. A preview page displays on the Bitly.com site with information about the shortened link. Bitly.com checks its shortened links for malware using data from independent sources.
TinyURL also provides a preview feature. When you create a TinyURL, a preview link is provided in the link creation page. The preview link gives “recipients confidence” because they know the destination before clicking it. Add “preview” to a TinyURL link to check its destination URL. For example, preview the destination link of tinyurl.com/jrsluox by visiting preview.tinyurl.com/jrsluox instead.
Clicking a t.co, Bitly, or TinyURL preview link provides some safety assurances. But what about links created by other link shortening services? Many sites offer a method to check shortened URLs for safety. One such site is CheckShortURL. It supports most of the popular link shortening services. Input a shortened link into their search box, then click the Expand button.
The results page displays the original destination link. Check the safety of visiting the link using common services like Sucuri and Norton too.
Another site to view the redirect link for a shortened URL is Unshorten.It!. Input a shortened link into their search box, then click the Unshorten.It! button.
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