# Should link-shortener services be off-limits?

Link-shortener services (e.g. exe.io, bit.ly, etc) route traffic to a destination website without allowing the end-user to see what website they are clicking into before clicking. This can be used for malicious purposes, so I make an effort to never click them.

Furthermore link-shortener services pay account-holders a small dividend per unique clickthrough, creating a profit motive for fake accounts, although I doubt that's much of an issue on a low traffic forum like this.

Yes, we should avoid shortened links.

There is no need to use shortened links on our site - almost no post ever runs into the upper character limit for posts, and by default you should use links as hyperlinked clickable text [text](url) so the length of the URL is entirely irrelevant because it is not part of the visible text.

• Since the question asks if they should be "off-limits"... How should we respond when we see a post that uses a shortened link? Should we just post a comment saying "please don't do this"? Or should we flag the post for moderator attention? Sep 10 '21 at 19:58
• @ChiralAnomaly I think the best course of action would be to submit an edit that replaces the shortened link by its actual target. Of course, if you won't click the link to see where it goes, then leaving a comment is likely the next best choice, but the flag works, too.
– ACuriousMind Mod
Sep 10 '21 at 20:24
• @ACuriousMind I'd advise people against clicking unknown links in general. With some shortener there are ways to check where the link goes without clicking it, though. For instance with bit.ly you can just add a + to the end of the url: example. If someone does want to edit any of these links they see, this is a better method than just hoping the link is non-malicious.
– Chris Mod
Sep 11 '21 at 20:36
• That's a helpful point, @Chris, and adding + also works for goo.gl and tinyurl. Unfortunately, some sites use a different character. When I shorten links (e.g. to share with myself across devices), I use the concise but much less-known service is.gd (pronounced "is good"), for which the equivalent of adding + is adding -.
– J.G.
Sep 12 '21 at 9:28
• There are a few free services that can preview shortened URLs, eg unshorten.it who also supply a Chrome extension, which puts a preview option in the menu that pops up when you right-click the URL. Sep 12 '21 at 21:58

It's clear I'm outvoted, but every now and then I use shorteners here and would miss them.

Some URLs are very long and, when linking something in a comment (say, a page from a book), they can really be an annoyance.

So I'd suggest that: If shorteners are banned, then make urls not count towards the character limit in comments.

• I'm not convinced this is an actual problem, or at least that it happens anywhere near frequently enough to require changes. For ultra-long URLs there are often shorter alternatives (say, linking to a landing page and specifying navigation), or just using multiple comments where required. Sep 30 '21 at 15:29
• And how frequently are shortened links used with malicious intent on Physics SE? Probably also not that much. Specifying navigation is unwieldy — by this argument we could ban any link (perhaps not white listed; to prevent, say, spam) and just describe how to get there. Sep 30 '21 at 16:43
• Which shortener do you use? I’ve just searched your comment history for an idea of how much of a burden this is; you have never used tinyurl, bit.ly, or exe.io in a comment on Physics.
– rob Mod
Oct 11 '21 at 13:07
• Thanks a lot for looking into it, @rob I just google for a shortener when I need it. From my history, I should have used www.shorturl.at last - I just can't tell whether I used it here in Physics or somewhere else... Oct 11 '21 at 13:41
• Thanks for engaging. You have also apparently never used shorturl in a comment or a post on Physics.
– rob Mod
Oct 11 '21 at 13:45
• That sucks. At any rate, to implement my suggestion I'd say that it's easier to fix a list of shorteners that don't count towards the limit and including this list in the documention. But of course that would have to not cost too much work on your side, especially since I'm failing to prove it's very much needed... Oct 11 '21 at 13:57