More tools to lengthen tiny URLs

To accompany Sunday’s look at Twitter tools that unmask shortened URLs, here are some utilities that reveal the true destination of shortened URLs outside of Twitter.

I’ve shortened five URLs, including one YouTube link, with the five URL shorteners that were used the most in tweets within last 24 hours.

And here are screenshots of how six tools expanded the links

LongURL Mobile Exander

This Firefox plugin displays a long URL after holding your mouse over a shortened address for a few seconds.

LongURL Mobile Exander

TheRealURL

The other tools I tried all require you to visit their site and paste a short URL into a form. Each tool returned exactly what I expected: the lengthened URL.

TheRealURL expansion preview

PrevURL

PrevURL preview

Untiny

Untiny preview

ExpandMyURL.com

ExpandMyURL preview

url snoop

url snoop preview

LongURL

This service provided the title of the destination page, a screenshot, and meta information — much more detail than the other tools:

LongURL.org preview

Here are some tools that I did not try out:

  • Long URL Please unfortunately did not work with my post, although I’ve used it successfully for other pages.
  • TinyURL Decoder is a Greasemonkey script, which is a bit more techie than I want to get here.
  • Previewlink.org is an experimental Firefox plugin.

If you want to have fun, try out the aptly named hugeURL and SoCuteUrl.com.

To explore more URL lengtheners, bookmark my growing Delicious collection.

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.

Tweetdeck

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.

Nambu

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 twitter.com for your tweeting, you can install the Power Twiter plugin to change the way twitter.com 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

Tweetree

Once you’ve logged into this web-based Twitter client, you’ll see your friends’ recent tweets, just as you’d see them on twitter.com. 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 mashable.com or wreckMyComputer.com. 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.

Not good: Over 2 million incoming links overnight

Over two million links suddenly pointed to my sOCial Sunday post on Jon Lansner’s blog yesterday morning when someone exploited a security hole in the free Cligs URL-shortening system.

So what’s the problem? For starters, Google could misinterpret this as a spam attack and penalize the blog.

Since the post was on Lansner’s blog, I will continue to follow the story there. For now, here is a roundup of early information:

Cligs Got Hacked – Restoration from Backup Started
http://blog.cli.gs/news/cligs-got-hacked-restoration-from-backup-started
How we got 2.2 million Internet links … temporarily!
http://lansner.freedomblogging.com/2009/06/15/web-hacking-millions/26135/
Cligs short url service hacked, millions redirected
http://www.sophos.com/blogs/gc/g/2009/06/16/cligs-short-url-service-hacked-millions-redirected/
Popular URL shortener Cli.gs, hacked.
http://thenextweb.com/2009/06/16/popular-url-shortener-cligs-hacked/
A Short Lesson in URL Hacking
http://irishdev.com/Home/News/553-A-Short-Lesson-in-URL-Hacking.html

Shortened Barack Obama links to The Sun, Guardian

A quick visit totinyurl.com/Obama brings up the front page of British tabloid The Sun.

Sun from Obama

That web address is what Tinyurl.com calls a “custom alias.” It works great when I wan to tell someone where to find my Google profile: tinyurl.com/ksablan. That’s much easior to remember than www.google.com/s2/profiles/102516730109910018503, or a cryptic address that most URL-shortening services produce.

But you don’t have to be the new president to create a shortened address that contains “Barack” or “Obama.”

Cli.gs/Barack points to a November blog post on guardian.co.uk about efforts to trademark the then-president-elect’s name:

guardian.co.uk Barack articleAnd here are some other shortened URLs that contain the president’s name, along with the pages they point to.

Tinyurl.com/barack did not make the list because TinyURL.com terminated the address. TinyURL says the address was “used by its creator in violation of our terms of use.”

Thank you to longurl.org for expanding all of the shortened web addresses mentioned in this post.