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For the most part, URL shorteners should not be used here.

Their primary benefit—fitting long URLs into artificially scarce text spaces—is of no use here. The Question and Answer spaces are plenty large enough to handle 99.99% of all URLs. Even the comment space is plenty big enough for all but the most egregiously long links.

On the downside, however, URL shorteners can be (and have been) used to hide:

  • spam
  • links with affiliate codes
  • malware
  • LMGTFY

Knowing this, some corporate networks block links to the most popular URL shorteners, making them completely unusable for those people.

Almost all URL shortened links in posts on Web Apps should be changed to be their target URL. The following links are to searches on the main site to find posts with these URL shorteners in them.

(Please add more as necessary.)

Note that URL shorteners in comments aren't findable this way. 3

Note also that a lot of instances should stay. Explaining how to use an URL shortener, for instance, is on-topic here. Use your best judgment.

As with all clean-up projects, when editing posts don't just fix this one issue. More than likely there are other issues with the post that should be addressed.


1 fb.me URLs are probably okay, since they can only point to pages on Facebook.com.
2 goo.gl/maps/, goo.gl/photos/ and goo.gl/forms/ URLs are probably okay, since they can't point to anything other than Google Maps, Google Photos, and Google Forms respectively.
3 If you find an URL shortener in a comment, please flag the comment and write an explanation in the "other..." field pointing out that the comment contains an URL-shortened link. If possible, include where the URL shortener actually points. (For help with this, see: How can I be certain that a URL-shortened link I click isn't going to send me to a dangerous or unwanted site?)

  • 2
    A tool like GetLinkInfo is handy to check where a URL should point as well as any subsequent redirects – John C Sep 16 '13 at 15:46
  • 3
    Some of these services also allow a simple + suffix modifier on the end of the link to display a contextual information page, e.g. bit.ly/gsounds+ -- I always use this if I'm unsure about a link's provenance. – Chris Woods Sep 16 '13 at 16:59
  • 2
    Rex Swain's excellent HTTP Viewer service (rexswain.com/httpview) is also a regularly used tool for insulated checking of potential URL redirects and header contents. – Chris Woods Sep 16 '13 at 17:00
  • Bottom 4 shorteners are appropriate uses only now, crossed them out :-) – John C Sep 17 '13 at 10:17
  • Thanks, @JohnC. – ale Sep 17 '13 at 12:25
  • 1
    Remaining goo.gl uses seem legitimate. – ale Sep 17 '13 at 20:06
  • 1
    The remaining bit.ly uses seem legitimate too. – ChrisF Sep 17 '13 at 21:37
  • Out of curiosity, have we encountered problems with shortners in the past? If yes, how's this being monitored? – Jacob Jan Tuinstra Sep 18 '13 at 7:56
  • I've personally cleaned up several masked LMGTFY links, as well as some affiliate codes and spam. I don't think it's monitored. A request to put a system-wide ban on URL shorteners was declined, mostly because it would be a pain to maintain the list and there are occasionally legitimate uses for them. – ale Sep 18 '13 at 12:23
  • 1
    I've seen bfy.tw being used in comments lately to wrap LMGTFY links. Given bfytw.com, the intent is clear. – Martijn Pieters Oct 3 '15 at 10:27
  • adfly are the WORST! – Ellie Kesselman Aug 26 '16 at 4:13

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