Ever see strange web addresses like goo.gl/Cg9nL or bit.ly/im39Sy on Twitter? These are links generated by a URL shortening service which provide a type of “URL shorthand” for length-limited communications. They essentially redirect the shorthand version to the desired target. There are a large number of these free services with some of the more popular being bit.ly, tinyurl and goo.gl.
Since Tweets are limited to 140 characters, a link as long as securitysnapshot.wordpress.com consumes 20% of your message. A shortened version allows more room for your message but still gives recipients the ability to click through to the intended destination.
That’s the legitimate use of these URL Shortening services. Unfortunately, they also can play a darker role on the internet. Filters are used to keep watch for known spam spewing locations and keep the messages from reaching your in-box. By utilizing a shortened URL, the spammer has a much better chance of eluding your filters.
The shortening services are on to the ploy and have implemented strategies to thwart this behavior. The strategies seem to be working because the security firm Symantec is reporting spammers are now setting up their own shortening services to circumvent the safeguards.
How can you be sure you’re sending your browser the place you intend when clicking that shortened link? By using a de-shortener of course. Here’s a good one, http://longurl.org/. Just enter the short url and it will show the full length one as well as give you additional information about the site. Always good to look before you leap.