How to See Shortened URLs Without Opening Them

If you ever come across a link in email or on a website, always hover your mouse cursor over it to see the destination URL at the bottom of the browser to ensure it’s safe. But, this trick doesn’t work with shortened URLs that are quite common these days on social media websites.

However, this also doesn’t mean you have to facecheck every short URL and risk your security. There are multiple ways to check what’s behind a shortened URL without opening it. And in this post, I’ll show you how to do it on your PC and your smartphone.

Use the built-in preview

Most of the popular link shortening services let you preview the link by tweaking the shortened URL. Just memorize these simple tweaks, and for most short URLs you won’t have to depend on a third-party service. Below is the list of preview tweaks:

TinyURL

Add preview before the tinyurl.com part of the link. For example:

convert https://tinyurl.com/2loblt to https://preview.tinyurl.com/2loblt

tinyurl
Goo.gl

Add + (plus sign) at the end of the original URL. For example, convert goo.gl/0WhZa7 into goo.gl/0WhZa7+.

Bitly.com

Similar to Goo.gl, add a + at the end of the URL.

is.gd

Add - (hyphen) at the end of the URL. For example, convert https://is.gd/1j6nkF into https://is.gd/1j6nkF-.

Tiny.cc

Add ~ (tilde) at the end of the URL.

BudURL

Add ? (question mark) at the end of the URL.

Use an online service

If you don’t deal with short URLs often, then an online expander may work better for you. For this purpose, I like GetLinkInfo for its extensive support of URL shortening websites and detailed information about the link. Just paste the link on the website and press enter.

getlinkinfo

GetLinkInfo will tell you the main title of the page, starting description, exact long URL, and any external links on the page. It also uses Google to check the safety of the website content.

Use a browser extension

In case you deal with short URLs frequently, then a dedicated browser extension is a better choice. Unshorten.It! is a good extension for this purpose that is available for both Chrome and Firefox.

The cool thing about Unshorten.It! is that it doesn’t depend on the URL shortening service’s API, therefore, it can expand almost all types of short links. Once the extension is installed, right-click on any short link and select Unshorten it from the menu. The extension will expand the link in a new tab and also show safety information based on the Web Of Trust score.

unshorten.it

I also really liked the non-intrusive nature of the extension as it allows you to choose which links to expand and which to leave.

Expand short URLs on Android

On Android, you can use the free URL Manager app. This is actually an all-in-one link manager, but we will only be Looking at the expanding feature of the app. Here’s how to expand a link:

  1. Copy the short URL that you want to expand.
  2. Tap on the + icon in its main interface and select Expand.
  3. Now paste the URL into the text field and tap on Expand. The original link will be shown below.
url manager

You can also share a link directly from your browser to expand it in URL Manager.

Expand short URLs on iOS

On iOS, you can use the free URL X-ray app. Although URL X-ray is popular for its web service, its iOS app does a fine job of expanding URLs. Once installed, you can copy/paste the short URL in the URL X-ray interface to expand it. It also adds a button in the share menu to let you directly share URLs from other apps.

url x-ray

Summing up

You should be very careful while opening short links and always check what’s on the other side before opening, especially if you received them via email or a direct message. Memorizing short URL preview tweaks might involve some work, but it will make the process very easy if you deal with short URLs often. But of course, you can always get help from a third-party app when you are in doubt.

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