Shortened URLs are common practice nowadays, especially in social network sites like Twitter which has a 140-character limit for tweets. Although this method may seem harmless and even beneficial, there is a possibility that a shortened URL contains unsafe content that can harm your computer and even steal your personal information. If you use Firefox, however, an add-on called Unshorten.It allows you to preview shortened links and makes sure the source is safe for viewing.
First, you have to install the Unshorten.It add-on in Firefox. Once it’s installed, you’ll need to restart Firefox before you can start using the add-on.
There will be no icon or buttons for this add-on anywhere on the add-on bar, but you can use it by using the context menu (right-clicking) on a shortened URL and then clicking on “Unshorten this link”. This opens a new tab where the link is then checked and presented in preview mode.
You will then get a detailed description of the link’s source. The title page and unshortened web address is shown on the left side. Most web articles have some sort of summary or description, and this should show below the link’s full web address. A medium-sized preview of the web page is displayed on the right side. The page previews are managed by another website called Pagepeek.com, and some screenshots for less popular websites may not be retrieved. In addition to this, the add-on also indicates if a website is in HPHost’s black lists.
Unshorten.It also uses Web of Trust to warn you of any blacklisted or unsafe web addresses. These indicators are found on the bottom of the page. Safety ratings are shown in the following categories: Trustworthiness, Vendor reliability, Privacy and Child safety. These are shown in descriptive ratings like Unsatisfactory or Excellent, and should be the basis whether to proceed. To know more about the ratings, click on “View full Web of Trust Scorecard”.
Below is an example of a web address that has an Unsatisfactory rating in all categories. This should be enough assessment for anyone to decide not to proceed with accessing the link.
On the other hand, if ratings look good and nothing is suspicious, then you can go ahead and open the link from the blue button on the bottom.
There are some limitations with this add-on. Remember that Unshorten.It only works with shortened links, so checking full web address will most likely result to an error. It also doesn’t work with AdF.ly links due to the way it redirects users.
Unshorten.It is a clever and easy way to ensure internet safety at all times. Hacks and malicious software are growing more advanced each day, now hiding in plain sight where the average computer user is easy prey. Despite its limitations, this add-on is clearly a step ahead in protecting against hacks, viruses or any digital threats. For this reason, Unshorten.It is a necessary tool for those who are constantly clicking on shortened links.