When it comes to sharing links and content over the internet, content sharers often use shortened URLs to save space and make the link appear a bit more attractive on a site. These links function no differently than the long URLs that you see in your internet search bar, simply serving as a way to redirect users to select webpages.
You may already be familiar with the most common short URL services, such as TinyURL, Bit.ly, or Goo.gl, which generate generic URLs prefixed by the site name. While hugely convenient, these links may also pose a security risk, as many hackers take advantage of these links to redirect users to rogue or scam webpages. Luckily, there are many online services that can help you preview what's behind a shortened URL before you click the link.
How To Verify a Short URL
Even if a shortened URL has arrived from a trusted source (i.e. a friend or colleague), it doesn't hurt to verify that the link leads to a secure site. Unfortunately, it has become all too common for hackers to make their way into email servers and send out mass emails from user accounts that contain infected links. Here are a few simple tricks that you can use to preview what's behind a tiny URL.
Unshorten Bit.ly and Goo.gl Links
If you'd like to verify a bit.ly or goo.gl link, you may actually do so by simply adding a + sign at the end of the link.
Copy and paste the short link into your internet browser, and add a + after the link. Then, press Enter. Upon pressing enter, you will be taken to a page with information about the link's destination as well as a preview of where the link has been viewed:
Note that the above screen shot was taken after testing a bit.ly link. A similar page will be displayed by Google Analytics for goo.gl links.
Unshorten.it is an online tool that deciphers your shortened URL in just one step. Simply head to the site, and enter the URL into the search box. Then, click on Unshorten.It! to see the full link, a short description of the page (if available), as well as a screen shot of the webpage. Unshorten.it uses ratings provided by Web of Trust to warn you if a website appears malicious:
Unshorten.it is also available as an extension for Google Chrome and Firefox.