Archive for June, 2009

What Happens When You Shrink a Tiny URL?

As you may know, there are a number of URL shortening services that help shorten a URL down to about a dozen characters so that you can include links in Twitter and social network updates. The “who’s best” jury is still out on tinyurl vs bitly vs twurl vs trim (and more…) – but all of these services allow you to enter a URL and get it shortened. 

I have been noticing that TweetDeck (and some other Twitter clients) have been giving you a preview of the final destination of a shortened URL. In other words, when you click on a shortened URL, it brings up a window that gives you the full URL that you are headed to. I love this feature. Since a shortened URL may look like this – http://bit.ly/oZBXk – you have no idea where it will take you when you click on it. It could be a website that you don’t want to visit (like MeatSpin – and, NO, I will not be linking to it). The shortened URL preview on TweetDeck looks like this:

Shortened URL Preview on TweetDeck

Shortened URL Preview on TweetDeck

But, my aversion to getting tricked into clicking on a meatspin link got me thinking. What if you could trick the shortened URL preview? What if my shortened URL only led to another shortened URL? So, I took a URL (http://mikemywords.com) and shortened it using TinyURL. I then took what TinyURL gave me (http://tinyurl.com/lcvq3d) and shortened it with Bitly (and got http://bit.ly/oZBXk). I then started twisting my mustache in a sinister fashion and wringing my hands in anticipation of the proving of my own brilliance. I had fooled the shortened URL preview! But upon closer look, the “Story Title” in the preview window still displayed the title of the final destination. See image below:

Short URL Preview on TweetDeck

Short URL Preview on TweetDeck

So, I almost outsmarted the shortened URL preview window in TweetDeck. But not quite. Which is fine, because at least I can always see the Story Title and will be less likely to end up on a site I don’t want. 

On a related side note. TinyURL will not let you shorten a URL that has already been shortened (like a bit.ly URL), neither will Trim.

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