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expand shortened urlWith 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

Firefox

1. Long URL Please Mod

Long URL Please Mod (an expanded mod of this addon MakeUseOf featured in much detail earlier Long URL Please Prevents You From Getting Rick Rolled (Firefox) Long URL Please Prevents You From Getting Rick Rolled (Firefox) Read More ) does a great job expanding short URLs shrunk by the huge range of URLs shorteners (currently “182 short URL services” are supported).

expand shortened url

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.

expand shortened link

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2. Xpndit

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).

Google Chrome

3. ViewThrough

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.

expand shortened link

Many users report it doesn’t work on the latest version of Google Chrome. However I didn’t seem to notice any performance issues.

4. LongURL

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):

expand shortened links

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.

Userscript

(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).

expand shortened url

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?

  1. David Zakarias-Welch
    March 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    i found a chrome extension that does just this and seems to work quite well
    https://chrome.google.com/exte...

  2. David Zakarias-Welch
    March 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    hmm i haven't used discus comments for a while

  3. David Zakarias-Welch
    March 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I wish there was a url decryper for youtube pages.
    So that the un descriptive youtube url was replaced by the title of the video or something

  4. Mistrtim
    March 28, 2011 at 5:36 am

    These tools really do very little but to expose the link.. but a person STILL doesn't know where or what it leads to so what's the good of it? Few people really take the time to investigate the reputation of any root domain so many will still get burned if they click a bad one. Perhaps the real onus should be on the link shorteners to develop more secure services that prevent nasty links or better preview features that provide safe viewing?
    Just saying..

    • Ann Smarty
      March 28, 2011 at 7:08 am

      No, you don't research each root domain before clicking but you won't probably care to click a link that says "g@ambling 24" or "hot girls", will you?

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 28, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Exactly. You can often tell by the names of some domains what you are likely to find there. If the domain says "buyviagrafromme.com", then you know all you need to know right there.

  5. John
    March 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Hey Thank you, was so so useful

  6. Software Topics
    March 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I believe that having a short URL instead of the actual long one is not quite a god thing.
    Bad people are using this short version of URL so they can bring viruses to you.
    But if you see a proper link, you can search a little bit of it online and see if it is a good/bad link before clicking on it.

    • Ann Smarty
      March 27, 2011 at 8:08 pm

      Absolutely! Hence the purpose of this overview

  7. OMG Eureka
    March 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Does these url extenders work with Gmail service. I have checked long url and 1 more chrome extension, which was not able to extend the short url in the Gmail web email. Else where it was working fine. Any one has any experience with that

    • Ann Smarty
      March 27, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      It looks like none of them works in Gmail, including LinkPeelr suggested below. I wonder, does Gmail block extensions?

    • Ann Smarty
      March 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      The userscript works in in Gmail FireFox 4, but not in Google Chrome

  8. Guest
    March 27, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Looks like my comment wasn't posted but anyways... My favorite url expander for Chrome is LinkPeelr https://chrome.google.com/webs...
    I have tried many and this one works great. For Firefox 4 it seems to me that it expands urls natively for most that I have come accross anyways.

  9. Guest
    March 27, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Looks like my comment wasn't posted but anyways... My favorite url expander for Chrome is LinkPeelr https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ahhcmjnfhbpgagklnjhlcabnbcdgipje
    I have tried many and this one works great. For Firefox 4 it seems to me that it expands urls natively for most that I have come accross anyways.

    • Ann Smarty
      March 27, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks! I have it installed and it looks like a good extension. I'll be playing with it for some time before I know for sure!

  10. Mango
    March 27, 2011 at 4:59 am

    i'm with james here.. it's a shame the ff addons don't work for ff4..

  11. grantdb
    March 27, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I have always been irritated by not knowing what the full url is before clicking and I have tried many url expanders, my personal choice for Chrome is LinkPeelr https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ahhcmjnfhbpgagklnjhlcabnbcdgipje

    It seems to me that Firefox 4 does a decent job of expanding many short urls by itself.

  12. shle896
    March 27, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Another great url shortener extension is Shareaholic. Not only does it shorten URL's, it also can send the link you want to share to your email client or Facebook and a myriad of other services. I use it in Chrome constantly and the extension is available for Firefox and Opera, too.

    http://goo.gl/M3aZq

    • PSK
      March 27, 2011 at 4:29 am

      thanks for wanting to share, though we were talking about 'expanding' shortened urls and not making them.

  13. grantdb
    March 27, 2011 at 5:31 am

    I have always been irritated by not knowing what the full url is before clicking and I have tried many url expanders, my personal choice for Chrome is LinkPeelr https://chrome.google.com/webs...

    It seems to me that Firefox 4 does a decent job of expanding many short urls by itself.

  14. James
    March 27, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Neither Xpndit nor Long URL Please Mod are available for Firefox 4 right now. Considering that's the most recent release of the browser, I think that's worth noting.

    • Ann Smarty
      March 27, 2011 at 7:17 am

      Oh no! I hope they will be quick to upgrade the addons.

      Luckily, the LongURL Mobile Expander script does work on FF4

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