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Introducing Link Unshortener

April 14 2020 by Jeff Johnson
Support this blog: Link Unshortener, StopTheMadness, Underpass, PayPal.Me

Today I've released a new app in the Mac App Store! The app is named Link Unshortener, and its purpose is to expand shortened web links.

Many links posted on the web use a shortening service in order to track your clicks. Examples of shortening services are t.co (which is used by Twitter), bit.ly, tinyurl.com, youtu.be, apple.co, and apple.news. When you click on a shortened link in a web browser, it typically sets a tracking cookie and then redirects you to the real destination URL. These are first-party cookies, not third-party cookies, because the link you clicked has the tracker's domain! The HTTP referer header may also indicate the the source of the link when the redirect occurs. And you might not even know what the destination URL will be until after you click! All of this is problematic, but the good news is that my new app Link Unshortener is the solution. Link Unshortener takes a shortened link and finds the destination URL for you, while also preserving your anonymity and privacy. Link Unshortener doesn't set any cookies or use other types of storage, it doesn't cache web files to disk, it has a generic User-Agent to hide its and your identity, and it automatically removes tracking parameters such as utm_source, gclid, and fbclid from URLs.

Link Unshortener works with every URL shortening service known or unknown, because it follows all HTTP redirects. Although its main purpose is to work with well known URL shortening services, Link Unshortener can be used a general redirect discovery tool. Link Unshortener includes a Mac share extension and a Mac system service, so you can easily send URLs to Link Unshortener from other apps, such as web browsers. Link Unshortener provides convenient workflows for handling the real, unshortened destination URL. You can open it with your default web browser, open it with another app, or copy it to the pasteboard. There's even a preference to automatically copy the destination URL to the pasteboard. There are a number of quick keyboard shortcuts. And with the new StopTheMadness "Open Link with" feature, you can add a contextual menu item in Safari specifically for Link Unshortener.

Speaking of StopTheMadness, I'm working on a big new feature for Safari, and Link Unshortener is a step toward that. To be clear, I will not be merging Link Unshortener into StopTheMadness, so don't hesitate to buy both apps! My ultimate goal is to have the two apps work together even better and more conveniently than they do now. You'll see. No spoilers.

One More Thing
The Link Unshortener app icon. Yeah, I'm sorry! If the app becomes popular, I'll hire a designer to work on that.

Support this blog: Link Unshortener, StopTheMadness, Underpass, PayPal.Me

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