Long URL Please Makes a Lot of Sense

By  |  Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 10:16 am

No doubt if you use Twitter or some other sites, you have stumbled across those shortened URLs from services such as TinyURL and others. While it does work well for services where a short URL is necessary, they can just as easily be used for malicious purposes.

When you click on a shortened URL, there really is no way to tell where its going. Thus, you wont know if you’re being phished or worse yet hacked (IE exploit, anyone?) until it has already redirected. That’s a little scary.

This is where a service like Long URL Please comes in. The service is actually an extension for Firefox which peers inside those shortened URLs and actually gives you a shortened form of the actual hyperlink — allowing you to see where it is going ahead of time.

Fear not IE users: the site has also developed a bookmarklet for you to convert those links. Altogether about 30 shortened URL services are supported right now, according to Long URL’s website.

“I built longurlplease to scratch an itch – I don’t like short urls because I have to click on them to see where they link to. Please just show me a long url for a change,” developer Darragh Curran said. He has also told Ajaxian that he’d be willing to help services that make use of TinyURL and others in integrating the service into their own applications.

I think this would be a great idea. While the idea is good-intentioned, how shortened URLs are used and displayed can be potentially dangerous to the end user.

(Hat Tip Ajaxian)


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Darragh Curran Says:

    Thanks Ed for the write up (and ajaxian for creating an audience).

    You’ve highlighted the security issues with short urls – for me the biggest win is I can more quickly decide if a link in a tweet is something that I’m prepared to click. And if I click it and am disappointed, at least it wasn’t on the basis of potluck!


  2. Jeff Says:

    Good point about not knowing where tiny url’s go, but really I couldn’t care less about IE users. With all it’s security flaws, I just don’t understand why anybody still uses it.

  3. Ed Oswald Says:

    Darragh – no problem. Hat tip to you on a good idea (surprised nobody has done this yet!)

    Jeff – yeah, but about 70% of internet users still haven’t seen the light 🙂

  4. Marc Says:

    “With all it’s security flaws, I just don’t understand why anybody still uses it.”

    Last week Microsoft released a patch within 2 days. Firefox took 3 months to patch a similar vulnerability earlier this year. And yes it was being actively exploited.

    I use FireFox, but with caution.

    Yes Firefox has NoScript which helps no end, but most people who have no interest in technology don’t want to be dealing with having to turn on JavaScript all the time. IE8 is shaping up to be quite a nice browser, and I would switch if it wasn’t for Ad-block+.

    If I were Microsoft I would release IE8 with an Ad-Blocker, one that blocks Google’s ads. That would probably be illegal in some way (even though AdBlock+ isn’t) but it would be an interesting way of competing 😉

    Oh, and tiny URL lets you prefix it with the preview sub-domain which is nice. This can be set to the default behaviour via a cookie.

    “I used to be a Mac fanboy. But I saw the light.”

  5. spammb Says:

    The webapp kindurl (http://kindurl.com) was created for the same purpose. It takes longURLs and makes prettified URLs. Very similar to tinyurl but gives context about where the url redirects.

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