What are shortened or tiny URLs?
In the world of shortcuts, how could URLs stay behind. With domain names getting stranger and web links getting obnoxiously longer, tiny URLs come to the rescue. These are like capsule covers that make medicines easy to digest. Usually web addresses are attached with a lot of information (called query string) that helps a web page fetch the right information. These links are hard to memorise and cumbersome to distribute through messages. Shortened URLs mask these long strings into much shorter and consumable links.
How and where do they work?
Services like goo.gl, bit.ly or tinyurl.com provide URL shortening. You take a web address that is too long and feed it to one of these service providers. Using internal algorithms, they will convert it to a small, readable, and unique link. You may copy this link and distribute it through various media channels like instant messaging, social media, or emails.
What are their pros and cons?
A big plus is that shortened URLs are easy to remember and distribute. They make your content look prettier by taking being shorter (less than one line) instead of otherwise long links that may run more than four lines; which can be deterring.
A major trouble with shortened URLs is that you do not know what information they hide. After shortening, the link resembles nothing to the original one. It is impossible to just look at a link and know whether it is genuine or not.
How can I be safe with tiny URLs?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way out here. The first step when you see a shortened URL is STOP. “Do not click” on the URL is the best policy here. So how do I see the content? Well, you’ll need to copy the URL (even if it is on your mobile phone) and verify its authenticity on one of the URL checker websites. Shortened URLs also have a preview feature that allows you to view the original source.
Um, like how?
Some popular URL shorteners are TinyURL, Bitly, Ow.ly, and now discontinued Goo.gl. These names will be part of the links that you will receive.
- TinyURL: If your shortened URL looks something like – https://tinyurl.com/y9qdy3jp, you may copy this link and paste it in your browser window along with a prefix – “preview.”. Thus your resulting link will be https://preview.tinyurl.com/y9qdy3jp. Once you hit enter, the original link will be displayed and you can now see its source, which in this case is https://kbi.digital/services/.
- Bit.ly: If your shortened URL is something like – https://bit.ly/2LN3tQS, adding a “+” at the end (https://bitly.com/2LN3tQS+) will reveal the original link; in this case – https://kbi.digital/about/
Using URL checkers
You may copy + paste the shortened URL in one of the following websites that verify if a link is safe.
1. Norton’s Safe Web – https://safeweb.norton.com/
2. Google Transparency Report – https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search
In conclusion, short links are readable and friendly. But they can also be used to disguise malicious web addresses and phishing links. So just STOP. LOOK. GO!