With the advent of Twitter “micro-blogging”, the multiple URL-shortening services solved the main problem the 140-character-limit blogging platform posed: they allowed you to easily share long URL’s with your followers. People have quickly got used to seeing shortened URLs, however the two main disadvantages of the services still apply:
- You can’t be sure where you will land (there’s no way to tell where a shortened link goes just by looking at it).
- You can fall prey to online spam and scams. Website owners have started using the services to hide affiliate URLs, to create “phishing” URLs, to cheat you (or your kids) into clicking adult and gambling links, etc.
This post will help you get smarter with what you click. Here are various browser extensions to preview and expand shortened URLs.
1. Long URL Please Mod
Long URL Please Mod (an expanded mod of this addon MakeUseOf featured in much detail earlier) does a great job expanding short URLs shrunk by the huge range of URLs shorteners (currently “182 short URL services” are supported).
When having it installed you are unlikely to ever notice it working: it integrates very naturally. You can also slightly customize its behavior using the settings:
- To replace the short URL while maintaining the same number of characters (the rest of the full URL will be replaced by dots but you’ll be able to see the linked domain);
- Replace both the URL and linked text (to see the URL path without the need to hover over);
- Replace the URL path only or keep the URL path while changing the link text.
Xpndit (which also exists as a userscript) is another regularly updated option for Firefox users that is supposed to display the full URL path as well as the page title. It wasn’t able to retrieve the additional information with me. Besides, it has multiple performance reports (found on the addon Firefox page).
ViewThrough is the Google Chrome extension that displays the full URL path and the linked page title on hover-over. Short URLs from bit.ly, cli.gs, ff.im, goo.gl, is.gd, nyti.ms, ow.ly, post.ly, su.pr and tinyurl.com are supported.
Many users report it doesn’t work on the latest version of Google Chrome. However I didn’t seem to notice any performance issues.
LongURL is the extension that uses LongURL API to quickly turn shortened URLs into the linked page title: hover over to see the full URL path as well as some additional information (like HTTP redirect, linked page meta description, etc):
LongURL supports most shortening services you are aware of. It also has a Firefox addon of its own but the addon has not been updated to work with the latest version of the browser.
(Tested on Firefox only but it may work on Google Chrome and Opera as well)
5. Long URL Mobile Expander
This userscript acts exactly the same way as the ViewThrough Google Chrome extension above (so if you like it, you can have it on Firefox as well).
This script hasn’t been updated for quite some time but it uses LongURL API, so let’s hope it will work for both established URL shortening services and newer ones.
Are you aware of any other handy options that would allow people to browse the web without short URLs? Do you see yourself using any of them?
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