URL shorteners help create web addresses that are easy to type and don’t get mangled by word-wrap. What they do is actually hide the real address with a user friendly once. You must have seen them at some time while surfing the net or in emails. Web addresses like https://bit.ly/theTechArt or https://tinyurl.com/y9qv8g45 which, when you click on them, take you to another web page. Why use them? Are there any dangers in using them?
First, let’s start with what URL stands for, URL is the shortened form of Uniform Resource Locator. It’s the posh technical term for a web address, which now has become the standard name use for the web address. But still mostly within the Tech community, most people know it as the ‘Web address’. Web addresses normally take the form http://www.somesite.com/somepage.html, which is not too much of a problem. But some site names can get very very long, and so can the page names.
This has increased hugely since websites started using database-driven design for their sites. This has had a direct effect on the length of the URL, meaning that URLs can get very long indeed, and most of them is computer gobbledygook. They are impossible to type in, if you are reading them in a print article, and often get corrupted by word-wrapping when they show up in an email or blog posting.
An URL shortener is a web service that takes a long address that’s hard to type and turns it into a short one. You should use them in articles for print publication, classified ads, emails, blog and forum postings. Anywhere there is a danger that the full address may be corrupted, or that someone may need to type the address into a browser manually.
But there is a danger in using short URLs that may make people afraid to use them. The short address disguises the real destination. This makes it easy for somebody to post an innocent looking message encouraging people to click on a link that takes them to a site which infects their computer with spyware, or something equally undesirable. For a check on your internet security know how read our article – 10 questions to see how spyware savvy you are
Some URL shortening services have tried to address this problem. The most well-known services are goo.gl (Google own service which is now shutting down – https://developers.googleblog.com/2018/03/transitioning-google-url-shortener.html ) and TinyURL.com. TinyURL.com have an optional preview page that shows you the target address before you go there. But you have to know to type “preview” in front of the address or visit the site and set it as a permanent option. Those who don’t know about this are still vulnerable to deception.
A safe URL shortener would not allow the creation of links to undesirable sites. It would also always display a preview page, so the user always sees where the link is sending them before they go there.
Next time you need to write a long web address, use an URL shortener. But to encourage confidence that no harm will come from clicking the link, pick a safe one. Below is a list of some of the most know URL shorteners:
https://goo.gl/ – to be discontinued soon
https://bitly.com/ – alternative service suggested by Google https://developers.googleblog.com/2018/03/transitioning-google-url-shortener.html
http://mcaf.ee/ – from the security software company McAfee (which is an actually a Intel company)