Worried About Clicking On A Bit.Ly Link? Follow This Tip.


URLs are getting longer.  Sometimes, the address of a web page can run to hundreds of characters, large chunks of which are meaningless strings of random numbers and letters.

Such URLs are impossible to type, when you're following a link in a printed document.  And even if you're including them on a web page for someone to click on, their sheer length makes the page look messy.  Which is why many web sites, including this one, have started using the services of URL-shortening sites such as Bitly.

But here's the problem.  How do you know where the shortened link is going to take you, if you can only see the shortened version in your browser and not the full unexpurgated version?

In the case of Bitly, specifically, the answer is simple.  Copy the shortened URL into your browser's address bar, add a plus sign (+) to the end, and then surf to that address.  You'll find yourself at a page which tells you the full address, gives you a summary of the page you're heading to, and even gives you some stats about the shortened link such as how many people have clicked on it in the past.

Neat, eh?  Try it with one of the Bitly links that you probably have in your browser history.  Just press Ctrl-H to see the history (from within your browser) and search for bit.ly.



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Since there are so many URL shortening services around, it might be better to write an article about "universal" URL expansion techniques: websites and extensions that can show the full URL from multiple shortening sites (e.g. tinyurl.com, bitly.com, is.gd, goo.gl, tiny.cc, t.co, etc). Oxa and Nodrog have already mentioned two extensions and bookmarkets. Another good site is longurl.org.

Nice bookmarklet, Nodrog.

Pull all of those spaces (%20) out and shorten that script to -


It makes the new window properly formatted.

I've added it to my bag of tricks. Thanks.

Glad you like it. I can't remember where I found it but credit to the originator anyway.

I should also have said that you can use it by highlighting the shortened URL first then click on the bookmarklet.

It's a bookmarklet that comes from the web site http://urlxray.com (the url is right in the script). Almost no information there about their service, though.

You have a good suggestion for an article.

FWIW, URL XRay seems very complete. I jumped on to Twitter and it successfully expanded every short URL that I saw and threw at it, including bit.ly and bitly.com URLs.

I use the Firefox extension Long URL Please. It automatically converts short URLs to the original in the web page. No need to click or do anything. Works on bit.ly, tinyurl, google URL shortener, and others.

Somehow I'm missing the point here. You talk about bit.ly? but not how to use it. Are there other alternatives? I'll google search. It's a PITA to use the long urls I agree.

A wee little bit of reading on Bitly's home page (bitly.com) shows you a link to "Help". There you find more than you ever wanted to know about Bitly.

And have you had the idea to try a Wikipedia search?

Great tip, Rob. Can I also offer a couple for non-Bit.Ly shortened URLs that I use.

In Firefox, there is the Unshorten.It! extension which adds this option to the context menu.

Also, you can use this bookmarklet which opens a pop-up for you to copy/paste the short URL in to see the full address -