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Preview a Short Link Safely

Updated: Wed, 15 Jan 2014

Avoid the potential disaster of phishing, malware, and viruses by examining short URLs before you visit them. Find out where links really take you. If you are not sure if you can trust a short link, there are ways to safely preview a short URL.
Preview a Short Link Safely

Can I preview a shortlink before clicking on it?

We have been asked that question many times by friends and clients. It has become common practice by many social networks to use short URLs, especially in the case of Twitter which has a character limit of 140 characters.

Advantages of a Short URL

The main advantage of a short link is that it is, in fact, short, and can be easily communicated and entered without error. To a very limited extent it may obscure the destination of the URL, though easily discoverable; this may be advantageous, disadvantageous, or irrelevant. A short link which expires, or can be terminated, has some security advantages.

Disadvantages of a Short URL

URL shortening may be utilized by spammers or for illicit internet activities. As a result, many have been removed from online registries or shut down by web hosts or internet service providers. Some websites prevent short, redirected URLs from being posted.

Short URLs are redirected URLs

For some of us, this fact is understood, however from a safety and security standpoint, blindly clicking on a short redirect URL is probably not the safest thing to do, especially if you don't know where it truly will lead you.

So, how do you preview a shortened URL?

Many URL shortening services offer ways of previewing the full URL before visiting it.

If you aren't so sure about where a bitly link will direct to, it is possible to preview the bitly link before clicking on it.

To do this, simply add a + sign to the end of any shortlink in your browser. For example, for http://bit.ly/1dqcqbM (a link to this article) just enter http://bit.ly/1dqcqbM+ into your browser and you'll be sent to a preview page for the link.

Google's short URLs can be previewed the same way as bit.ly URLs. Just add a plus + after a goo.gl URL to see where the link will take you, and Google will even give you statistics for that shortened URL.

For our Google Short link http://goo.gl/X2vktk just enter http://goo.gl/X2vktk+ and you'll see where you are headed.

Add "preview." in front of the tinyurl.com short link. For example, our tinyurl.com short link to this page, which is http://tinyurl.com/pzht3c4 and you can preview it with http://preview.tinyurl.com/pzht3c4. You'll notice if you use tinyurl.com that it actually shows you the preview link and says "give your recipients confidence with a preview TinyURL". This is a nice gesture on their part, but doesn't that defeat the purpose of a SHORT URL? Just my observation.

For McAfee, you can simply go to their website and paste in the URL you wish to check. Feel free to try our link ( http://mcaf.ee/lsuwm ) by copying this url and pasting it into their webpage.

Add "peek" before the short link. The snipurl short link for this page: http://snipurl.com/28g5mfu. To preview the snipurl for this page use this link: http://peek.snipurl.com/28g5mfu.

Add - (that's a hyphen) to the end of any URL. The is.gd short link for this page: http://is.gd/A30gy7. Now preview it: http://is.gd/A30gy7-.

Add a ~ to the end of the short link. The tiny.cc short link for this page: http://tiny.cc/poqp9w. The preview:http://tiny.cc/poqp9w~

Is there an easier way to preview a Short URL?

Simply, YES! There are websites which will allow you to easily paste in the URL to test it.

LongURL - Copy - paste and tada you can now see the Long URL

ToolsVoid - Copy - paste and tada you can now see the Long URL

unshort.me - Copy - paste and tada you can now see the Long URL

We are not attempting to endorse any one site over another, sites listed here are for reference purposes. If you know of any other URL shortening services that offer a preview feature, feel free to leave a comment below.

Description: Do you know where that short link goes? Here are some quick and easy tips to KNOW for sure where that URL is going.
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