Sunday, May 24, 2009

Previewing Shortened URLs

[Update 2011-11-15] Most or all of the following still applies. But see my later post for something even easier.


[Update 2010-08-30] Just happened across the JoshMeister's more comprehensive post on the same topic.


If you're a paranoid responsible Web surfer, you probably have moments of unease when you see those shortened URLs that are all the rage on the Twitter and the Facebook and so on. You might reasonably wonder if you're going to end up on some horrible phishing site, or perhaps just one that's NSFW. Here's something that might help.

If you want to see where an link will take you, just add a hyphen to the end of the URL. Try it on the following:
Clicking this takes you directly to
Clicking this takes you a preview page, where you can see the translated URL.

So, in practice, the way to do this is to right-click the link, choose "Copy link location," open a new tab or window, paste the URL into the location bar, and add the hyphen before pressing Enter.

You can do something similar with tinyurl links. For these, add preview. to the URL; e.g.:

I don't see an obvious way for, though they offer a Firefox add-on that will do a preview for you.

[Added] The claim is, the add-on works for other shortened URLs, too. Once you install it, you just hover your mouse pointer over the shortened URL and a tool-tip window pops up, showing the expanded URL.

[Added 2] Yup. Just installed it. Works as advertised. Nice. Can be a little sluggish to respond on a Twitter page (which may be Twitter's fault?) but seems like a worthwhile add-on.

[Added 3] Per the item linked to in the update at the top of this post, it is now the case that links can be previewed by appending a plus sign. Try it:

If you know of similar tips for other URL shorteners, please add them in the Comments and I'll update this post with them. [Added: or write a follow-up post.]

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