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When I see a shortened URL, I'm always hesitant to click it because I don't know where the link is going to go. (In the worst case, it may lead to an XSS exploit against a site that I'm logged in to)

How can I tell where the link is going to go?

For example, if I see a link to http://tinyurl.com/3yjnm7y I can go to http://preview.tinyurl.com/3yjnm7y and see where the link is going to send me.

How can I do the same for other popular URL shortening services (like bit.ly or goo.gl)?

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URLs converted by Twitter's link service are checked against a list of potentially dangerous sites, and when there's a match, users will be warned before they continue - according to this link support.twitter.com/articles/78124-how-to-shorten-links-urls – mvark Sep 14 '13 at 15:12

10 Answers 10

up vote 13 down vote accepted

You could use a service like Unshorten

Services supported: TinyURL.com, SnipURL.com, NotLong.com, Metamark.net, zURL.ws and many others.

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Unfortunately, it looks like this website is not longer operational. Too bad, it was useful. – Andrew Brēza Jan 29 at 21:54

There is a Firefox Addon and a Google Chrome extension that do this for you. Seems to me that one shouldn't have to click to find out -- the addons allow you to mouse-over to see the full URL.

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this is great but sometimes we have only link that we want to learn and it is not on a web page... – spinodal Jul 9 '10 at 12:49
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The Chrome extension link is broken :-( – Ben Collins Nov 5 '13 at 0:45

With goo.gl, you can add .info at the end of the shortened URL.

Example: http://goo.gl/l6MS.info

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Even easier: add the + character at the end. goo.gl/l6MS+ – Bookend Jan 29 at 20:11

You can take any bit.ly link and add a + symbol to the end to see stats and details about the link. For example, I just found this link in my Twitter feed

http://bit.ly/91X2Kw

if I add a + I end up at

http://bit.ly/91X2Kw+

which tells me the links will send me to

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/extra-extra-google-news-redesigned-to.html

In the more general case you'll want to look for a browser plugin which unshortens links.

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great tip/trick, thanks.... only works for bit.ly, hope others will implement the same thing – spinodal Jul 9 '10 at 12:50

One option would be to open the link in Google Chrome's incognito mode; even if the link is malicious, it won't have access to your cookies. This isn't foolproof however; the link could be crafted to hide any errors if you're not logged in.

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There are a number of URL expanders which should work for many of the 'better' URL shortening services out there - such as LongURL. Many shortening providers do not have this preview functionality which you refer to in the question built in which means that these third party expanders are required.

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GetLinkInfo.com purports to work with "all" URL shorteners. Just drop the link in the field and press "Get Link Info".

If found, the site responds with:

  • The title of the target page
  • The description of the target page
  • The shortened URL
  • The effective URL
  • Any redirections
  • External links
  • An assessment of the safety of the site from Google using their Safe Browsing service
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Really useful! I had no idea this website existed. – Andrew Brēza Jan 29 at 21:54

I wrote a Google Mobilizer bookmarklet that lets links on your Twitter timeline (or any webpage) be opened with Google Mobilizer.

This lets you see minimalist, text-only content related to those pages from a proxy Google server so you don't have to fear about contracting malware from dubious links or running into security issues.

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Rex Swain's HTTP Viewer isn't specifically for unshortening URLs, but is a general purpose tool to view what an HTTP request returns. It can be used to examine what a shortened URL will redirect to.

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Rather than try to modify the URL to see where it goes (which might not tell you much anyway), open it in another browser (for example Arora is a very simple on) in which you aren't logged-into those sites.

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That seems a little dangerous. What if there are viruses? – John Saunders Jul 25 '10 at 18:37

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