A few weeks ago, we looked at the Domain Name System, which is the system that translates a Uniform Resource Locator to the actual Internet address of a Web site in order to simplify Web surfing. For example, users may enter the easy-to-remember www.google.com instead of 126.96.36.199 when desiring a trip to the Google search engine.
The goal for the Web industry, when it comes to domain names, is to design easy to remember names to make it as simple as possible for the average user. That's easy to do when dealing with the home page of a site, but how is it accomplished when a specific page buried deep within a site is needed? One answer is to use a shortened URL.
The shortening of a long URL is a service that acts very much like DNS except it does not translate a URL to an Internet address; it translates a shortened URL to the actual one. TinyURL is credited with being the first such service, starting around 2002. Since then, hundreds more have appeared with some belonging to notable companies like Google.
Shortening the URL does make it easier for a user to find resources on the Web but it also lends itself to malicious actions. Users could be redirected to a legitimate site or they could be whisked away to a malicious site. Early pranks with shortened URLs took unsuspected users to one of the various so-called shock sites.
Shortened URLs have become problematic in social networking sites to the point they are banned from some. For others, IT professionals highly recommend users always preview a shortened URL before clicking it.
Visit expandmyurl.com or www.longurlplease.com to learn more about both shortened URLs and browser plug-ins that give preview capabilities to the user.
Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.