I spend a lot of time browsing the Internet and using social media for my e-Learning business. Just like me, I’m sure you’ve clicked on your fair share of shortened Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). You might know them by their more familiar name, web addresses. These shortened URLs are everywhere! I see them in my emails, in my social media feeds, and even in blog posts like this one. Are they safe? Should you be worried about using them?
Let’s try a test!
I’ve created this shortened URL to provide you with a link to one of my previous posts. Go ahead and click it. When you do, it will open in a new window.
Check out my post on creating a Storyline 360 analog clock: https://tinyurl.com/houpudc
If you look at the page, you’ll see it’s a post I wrote titled, Telling Time with a Storyline 360 Analog Clock. Feel free to read the article if you want but, I want to ask you something first. Did you click on the link without thinking about whether or not it was safe? That’s the problem with shortened URLs! You can’t tell where the link will take you by just looking at the address. In fact, you’re putting a lot of trust in the person who provides it to you. In this case, you don’t have anything to worry about but what if?
What if you see one of these shortened URLs in your Twitter stream or some other social media channel? Could it be someone trying to load your computer with malware or steal your personal information? Is there a way to know where the link takes you to before you click on it? Yes, there is! Before I share how you can validate one of these links, let’s answer another question. Why do people use these shortened URLs in the first place?
What are the benefits of using shortened URLs?
There are several benefits to reducing the number of characters in a URL:
- A shorter URL leaves more characters for you to use in a tweet. When you are limited to 140 characters or less on Twitter, leaving more characters for your message is a great benefit.
- A shorter URL encourages more people to share your link.
- A shortened URL provides analytical data that you can use to gain key insights into your tweets. For example, Bitly.com provides a service that can provide insights into the day of the week, time of day, social channels, device type, and operating system used by the people who engage with your links.
Now that you understand the benefits, who shortens these URLs?
Who are some of the URL shortening services?
How can I preview a shortened URL?
Let’s take the shortened URL that I created using the TinyURL service earlier: https://tinyurl.com/houpudc
To see where this URL is redirecting you to, insert the word preview as shown below and visit it with your browser:
If you click on the new URL, you’ll see the following:
Preview of TinyURL.com/houpudc
This TinyURL redirects to: http://bridgehillls.com/telling-time-with-a-storyline-360-analog-clock/
If you add a “+” at the end of an address shortened by Bitly (e.g., http://bit.ly/2lm4ggh+) or Google (e.g., https://goo.gl/6C8YP6+) you’ll be able to preview the full URL using these services.
If manipulating the address at the text level is a little tedious, then bookmark one of these sites in your browser:
I hope this post makes you think the next time you see a shortened URL! If you want to learn more, check out this article: http://blog.trendmicro.com/are-shortened-urls-safe/