Hyperlinks are a core building block o the internet. Without links between web pages, it would be a lot harder to browse the internet and it probably would not exist as we know it. Hyperlinks traditionally appear in one of two formats; either they display the full hyperlink inline, or the hyperlink is applied to other text. In either case, you can see the full URL and where it leads by hovering your mouse over the link. Being able to check where a link goes gives you confidence that following it is safe.
One of the downsides of a lot of URLs though is that they’re quite long, this can make hyperlinks annoying to read or even break them in some cases if the link wraps over onto a new line. The solution to this is a link shortener. A link shortener uses a randomly generated but short URL to redirect to the longer URL. Unfortunately, this system has some issues, most importantly, you have no idea where a shortened link will take you or if it is safe. Additionally, many shortened links go through multiple redirects which can include tracking links before actually loading the webpage it’s supposed to.
To be able to see where a shortened link is going, you should use a link expander.
How to see where a shortened URL will take you before clicking it
Some link shortening services include functionality to see where the link goes without actually going there. For example, the Bit.ly shortening service will show you where one of its shortened links goes if you put a “+” on the end of the URL. The Bit.ly link https://bit.ly/36M8g0s+ with the “+” on the end shows you that the link would take you to the Technipages home page.
For the TinyURL link shortening service, you can prepend the subdomain “preview” to any shortened link. For example, https://preview.tinyurl.com/yyyjhvqa shows that the link again goes to the Technipages home page.
Third-party link expander services such as checkshorturl.com and urlexpander.net allow you to paste in a shortened URL and will then tell you where the link goes. Checkshorturl goes one step further and includes some extra information and links to check if the website is known to be malicious.