How is Shortened URL or Short Link, a need to decipher
A shortened URL or short link is a URL or link which is short in length (with fewer characters) that redirects or targets to a destination URL. Regular long URLs are squeezed to short in length by a technique known as – URL shortening. There are various URL shorteners or shortening service providers or companies like Bitly or Owly which enables us to transform our regular URLs into shorter ones.
Lengthy URLs are aesthetically unpleasant and are difficult to remember, which may not fit within the size limitations of various microblogging sites. Here short links provide the solution to this kind of problem.
Earlier shortening URL technique was invented to avoid the exceeding character limit of Twitter and the 160-character limit of text messages (SMS) but as technology improved short links also developed analytics or tracking capabilities. This generally helped to determine the performance of a particular web page based on the number of clicks that it received.
Now the question arises that why we shorten the long URLs.
1. With the help of short URLs we can easily track analytics as well as measure the real time engagement.
2. It can be used for beautifying a link or to mask or disguise the original link.
3. It makes the URLs more manageable and encourages sharing.
4. Short links can ameliorate brand awareness and attract visitors to our site.
Note: Branded short links are similar to regular short links but are generally branded with the company’s brand. (e.g. For abcd Inc the branded URL will be like ab.cd).Google introduced “Firebase Dynamic Links” replacing its URL shortening service. These dynamic links are somewhat different from short links. Unlike the regular short links, it contains a brief string which basically represents the Android or IOS app that could be used for opening the link. For example,
1. Short URLs look neat and clean and can be easily shared or communicated without errors.
2. Takes up less space and facilitates the ability to track the stats or analytics for a particular URL.
3. Short links also help in increasing engagement by features like custom short URLs or branded URLs.
1. A short link redirects to a destination link and thus acts as a camouflage for the original link destination. This induces safety issues related to a particular link or URL as it gives no guarantee of its origin.
2. Short URLs or URL shortening may be abused by the spammers for illicit malicious internet activities. Many of the URL shortening companies are thus shutdown or removed from the online registries by their web hosts or ISPs.
Note: There are various websites that prevent short URL from being posted because of these security reasons. (Ex - In April 2009, Tiny URL was blocked in “Saudi Arabia”).3. For instance, sites such as “Adf.ly” uses advertising techniques to generate revenue where the visitor has to see an advertisement after clicking on the shortened URL. This affects the user experience and deters the page visitors.
4. Short URLs can redirect to an unexpected site and can allow blacklisted URLs to be accessed, bypassing the blocking. Visitors can then face security issues as they can then be redirected to a blacklisted scam page or page that contains a malware or XSS attacks. It is thus suggested that users check the doubtful short URL’s destination before accessing it.
5. Another privacy problem is that the shortened URL format is small in size and is thus vulnerable to brute-force search, exposing the private content of many users who use the short links to share their private information on the web.
6. Finally short links increase the page retrieval latency (i.e. the time taken to access a page) by adding an extra layer of complexity to the process of requesting a web page. Each time it would require more requests i.e. at least one more extra DNS look up and one more HTTP/HTTPS request. Moreover, there is also the risk of request failure as the shortening service might become unavailable at any time in near future.
Thus, there is no denying the fact that in terms of practical use shortened URL or short link plays a vital role in shrinking our long URLs and provides us the stats or analytics info but it has serious privacy and security related concerns. It is therefore better to be cautious about such short links which doesn’t seem to be from legitimate sources and have a proper malware software installed on our system that could safeguard us in case such unscrupulous links try to undermine our privacy or surfing experience.