Short URLs lose more than extra characters

You know those URL shortening services like They’re convenient, but there’s a downside. Like a lot of Web users, I look at the URL to get a clue of what the link is about and whether the host is a site I want to visit or avoid. If someone uses a link like or, you have no idea where you’re going to end up, unless the poster gives some context explaining things. That context is lacking more often than not. All you’ll get is “This is a cool thing!” and a truncated URL. Maybe I’m supposed to think “So-and-so would never steer me wrong, let’s click!” but it’s not even just that. Sometimes I want to know if I’m going to get a YouTube video, because sometimes I don’t want one.

It’s understandable on Twitter, though still a concern to me. But people copy that URL to use elsewhere — which is understandable, because that’s why the short URL services were created, really. Yet there’s still no context, no way to know where the link is going, just a implication of “Trust me!” After all the viruses and worms and incessant advertising I just can’t blindly click, even if I know the person, without a little bit of trepidation.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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4 Responses to Short URLs lose more than extra characters

  1. animist says:

    I use tiny URL on places that limit text length, or in situations where the long URL will get truncated (such as email a map from Google). But yeah, I am leary of clicking on a tiny URL unless i know who created it.

  2. hellmutt says:

    I think you need this special URL-lengthening service, m’dear.

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