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Summary:

The usage of URL shortening services like bit.ly and TinyURL has exploded over the past couple of years. They’re useful for shortening lengthy URLs, but as the user cannot tell what destination the link points to, they can also be used for malicious purposes

Thanks to Twitter and its 140-character tweet limit, the number of URL-shortening services like bit.ly and TinyURL have exploded over the past couple of years. They’re useful for shortening unwieldy URLs, but as the destination the link points to isn’t immediately obvious, they can also be used for malicious purposes — to trick users into visiting a site they wouldn’t have otherwise, for example. Untiny can be used to decipher those shortened links and see where they end up.

Having to go the Untiny site for every link would be a pain, though, so thankfully there are a large number of third-party Untiny add-ons and extensions listed for various browsers and IM clients on this page, including extensions for Firefox and Opera, Greasemonkey userscripts and more. These can automatically reveal the real destinations of any shortened links on a page — the screenshot above is of Om’s Twitterstream with all of the shortened links automatically decoded by the UnityFox Firefox add-on, for example — and provide a useful (and free) extra layer of security to the web.

Are you suspicious of shortened URLs?

(via gHacks)

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Can Enterprise Privacy Survive Social Networking?

  1. If you want to see the original url along with how it redirects (301, 302, etc) and a thumbnail of the resulting page before you click on it, try http://urlsnoop.com .

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  2. The Firefox plug-in LongURLplease has been around and doing this for ages. I love it! :)

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