Four Twitter tools reveal links behind shortened URLs

Wolf in Sheep's ClothingIn light of last week’s hack that redirected over 2 million shortened URLs to an unsuspecting blog post, this is a good time to look at how to find how to unmask a shortened web address before clicking on it. After all, malicious web sites could be lurking behind those tiny URLs … or worse.

Let’s start with the platform where you are most likely to find shortened web addresses: Twitter.


When you click on a link from the most recent version of this popular Adobe Air application (which means it runs on Macs, Windows, and Unix/Linux machines), a “preview” pops up and provides enough information for you to decide whether or not to visit the page:

TweetDeck link information

In addition to shortened URLs, if you click on a TwitPic link from within TweetDeck, it shows you a thumbnail of the picture. This feature might save you from the occasional NSFW surprise.

TweetDeck’s link-preview option is turned off by default. Go to the program’s settings and check the box next to “Show preview information for short URLs” to turn it on.


This Mac-only program replaces shortened URLS with only the domain of shortener, which makes tweets easier to read. If you leave your mouse over a link for a couple of second, a small balloon pops up to show you its destination.

Nambu link preview

Power Twitter

If you currently Firefox and for your tweeting, you can install the Power Twiter plugin to change the way looks and acts. Among its many features, it replaces every shortened URLs with the title, and favicon, of its destination page.

Power Twitter link preview


Once you’ve logged into this web-based Twitter client, you’ll see your friends’ recent tweets, just as you’d see them on But under each tweet, Tweetree also shows what it believes to be the title of destination page, along with the domain of the page. You won’t see the complete address of a blog post, but you’ll know whether it’s from or When possible, Tweetree even embeds linked-to pictures, videos, and sometimes even text right below the links.

Tweetree link preview

No link preview

I took a quick look at some of the more popular Twitter tools and found that these tools do not currently provide previews for shortened URLs:

Tell me: Did I miss something?

If you know of any other Twitter tools that reveal the true destination of shortened URLs, please share them in the comments below. I sincerely hope that I missed a slew of great applications.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at tools that reveal shortened URLs outside of Twitter. Feel free to sneak a peek by perusing my collection of URL lengtheners.

Update: Here is my look at more tools to lengthen tiny URLs.

Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing image from Delete via Flickr.

News outsiders know: Linking out helps SEO, drives traffic

Chains of SuccessBefore the two-year-old echo chamber of  Jeff Jarvis’ mantra “do what you do best and link to the rest,” and beside the concept of curation and aggregation as journalism, web experts outside of the news industry learned a long time ago that sending people away from your improves your search engine rankings and drives traffic back to your site.

Here are some tips from outside the news biz:

Hotel marketer and the link handshake: Linking to other sites is the first strategy that Lodging Interactive, a marketing agency for the hotel industry, names in its list of link building strategies for hoteliers: “If you want other people to link to you, extend your hand out first and link to theirs.”

Web designer and pre-reciprocation: In the Guide to Web Design, Jennifer Kyrnin asks if  you link to other web sites: “After all, most people are going to be much more inclined to link to you if you’ve already returned the favor.”

SEO trainer and blog attention: Linking to other blogs is one of  SEO Book’s  101 ways to build link popularity: “Many bloggers also track who is linking to them or where their traffic comes from, so linking to them is an easy way to get noticed by some of them.”

Entrepreneur and newsletter branding: In’s 10 cheap ways to build your brand, John Williams suggests starting a newsletter to keep you brand in front of customers: “Include your own articles and link to other pieces related to your industry.”

Blogger in the running: Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger — one the most powerful blogs in the world — probably says it best when he explains why linking to other blogs is critical: “If you’re blogging and not linking due to fear of competition, you may be surprised to find that you’re not even in the running.”

Photo from Stephen Mitchell via Flickr

Why I follow these 10 blogs

When you stumble upon a new blog, always scan its blogroll. Bloggers frequently share some hidden gems in those sidebars.

Here are links to ten sites on my blogroll, shared the way I usually find them nowadays, from people on Twitter who share more than just a headline when they link to a post.

  1. Joseph Fosco
    JosephFosco Love this quote from @joeybaker “controlling the scarcity of something that isn’t scarce can’t work”
  2. Levy Matt Sun
    LBmatt Great real world career and life tips for new journalism grads entering the newspaper industry (@kmdaum)
  3. Eva-Marie Ayala
    fwstayala WOW! hardcore journalist @tonymc39 tweets from ambulance after being shot this weekend.
  4. KT Hinderer
    hinder Hmm… as a professional would you ask your college paper to remove one of your past pieces that you are ashamed of?
  5. Mary Rose Maguire
    MRMaguire Is your laptop rattling? Never a good sign. This story had a funny ending.
  6. Steve Buttry
    stevebuttry Interesting post by @GinaMChen on paid-content/bottled-water analogy & @NYT_JenPreston debut as NYT social media ed.:
  7. Stephanie Wood
    ElegSufficiency 9 things you didn’t know about newspapers … Anne Royall, born 1769 considered to be the first female journalist
  8. kelly moore
    Kblogger 10 steps to becoming a better writer (funny , yet simple truth):
  9. chuck martin
    chuckmartin1 Interesting start! RT @10000words: 5 iPhone applications that can revolutionize mobile journalism
  10. Kay Green
    MyPreciousKid RT @PricelessTeam Interesting posts about misuses, abuses, & sometimes…unnecessary uses of Twitter. Insightful.

this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

By the way, I have to thank Craig Kanalley again for making me aware of the QuoteURL tool that I used to display these tweets. Craig is the founder of Breaking Tweets, a site that applies journalistic tweet curation to world news.

Topsy finds Twitter users who share links related to your beat

While the Twitter vs. Google debates rage on, a group of 42 mice have combined the best of both worlds and created a new search engine called Topsy. Type a couple of words into Topsy and it will return a list of web pages ranked by how many times they were linked to on Twitter, and who did the linking.

I’ll point you over to TechCrunch for details about Topsy. Let’s dive right into how it can help you find Twitter users to follow, based on their proclivity to share links related to the topic you cover.

Let’s say you report on health issues and are working on a story about gastric bypass surgery. Here are Topsy’s results for “gastric bypass.”

Topsy results for gastric bypass

Each result shows what Topsy believes to be the title of the page, its web address, the number of times it has been linked to from Twitter, and a sample of those tweets.

Top Twitter gastric bypass authorsBut enough about the search results. I’ll leave that review to other bloggers.

Focus your attention to the list of “top authors” on the right side of the results page. It shows Twitter users who have linked to pages about gastric bypass.

That list includes people who claim (on their Twitter pages) to be a personal fitness trainer, a fitness blog, a health and diet advocate, and even a company that “pioneered cosmetic tourism.” And most of them frequently tweet about fitness and health issues.

If health or fitness is your beat, you should follow these people. Don’t follow blindly, though. Review each person’s Twitter stream and only add people whose tweet are on point.

For finding links, the people on that list are probably more useful “friends” than the five people who tagged themselves with #gastricbypass on WeFollow. And it was quicker and easier to find them than searching through the 320 users listed in Just Tweet It’s health & wellness directory.

Twitter directories serve their purpose, to find people who tweet about a certain topic. But if you are looking for people who frequently share links  related to a particular subject, Topsy can be a great place to start.

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