TinyURL is a great service. Without even registering, you can take a long URL, like this…
…and get a short one made in a few seconds. Long URLs get fouled up in e-mail, newsgroup postings, and other places, making it a real pain to manually put the URL back together again. Most people just give up.
Personally I am often suspicious when I see a TinyURL link in an article. It makes me think sometimes that the real destination is being hidden from me. Lawrence Kabay wrote about this a couple of years ago here. It basically comes down to trust: do you trust the source of the link, or is the creator of the link luring you into visiting a malicious website that will attempt to implant malware on your computer?
TinyURL has developed a new feature that I think everyone should use. It does not require registration, but it does require you permit a cookie with TinyURL. They call this a Preview Feature, where TinyURL will show you the link, which gives you the option on whether you will actually visit the site or not.
Here is how it works: you click a TinyURL link in an article (or any other source), and you’re taken to TinyURL.com where they show you where the link really goes:
After examining the link, if you want to visit the page, just click on the link on the screen. If you do not wish to visit the site, just hit “back” or close your browser tab or window. Never again will you be taken someplace where you don’t want to go.
Here is how to set this up:
1. Go to TinyURL.com/preview.php
2. TinyURL will tell you whether you have Link Preview enabled or not.
3. If you see the link, “Click here to enable previews,” click it to turn Previews on.
Henceforth, every time you click a TinyURL link, you will be taken to a preview page where you can view the link and decide whether to visit the site or not. Much better than following a blind link.
For Firefox, Opera (and Chrome?) users, there’s also the “preview tiny urls” greasemonkey script. http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/24552
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Personally, I think having preview enabled should be the default for tinyurl. Turning previews off should be the option that needs to be enabled.