Short URL services serve no real purpose on today's Internet. They have become popular due to limitations set in place by services such as Twitter where users are limited in regards to the characters they can add to messages.
There are different types of short url services. Some simply redirect you to the destination directly, while others display intermediary pages or ads before they do so. What may be even more problematic is the lack of information where a link is taken you, until you are taken there.
That's where services like URL Uncover step in. They basically provide you with details of the destination page before you go there so that you know if it is a safe page or not. At the very least, you know where a link takes you so that you can use services like Virustotal to scan it and check it out before you visit it.
URL Uncover is a free web service and browser add-on for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that you can use to reveal the final destination of shortened links. It supports a variety of services including Tiny Url, Bit.ly or Tweetburner, as well as advertisement based services such as adf.ly or linkbucks.com
The web service works in all modern browsers. Just enter the url into the form and click on the uncover button afterwards to reveal the destination. The service displays the web address and a screenshot of the service on the results page.
It furthermore checks whether it is blacklisted and offers to take you there with another click.
The Firefox and Chrome extensions provide you with a form that you can use for the same purpose. In Chrome, click on the icon the extension adds after installation and paste in the short url that you want to analyze. You are then taken to the results page on the URL Uncover website where you receive the same set of information as described above.
There is unfortunately no option to right-click on links in either browser to have them analyzed. You do need to copy them and paste them in the form in the browser or on the URL Uncover website directly for that.
If you encounter many short urls on your day to day activities, you may want to give URL Uncover or a similar extension a try, as it provides you with information that may improve the security of your system. At the very least, it enables you to bypass intermediary pages filled with advertisement.
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