Monday, February 23, 2009

Do links frighten you?

TinyURL is nice because it shortens long, unreadable, untypeable URLs to short, readable, URLs that can easily be retyped (if necessary) or pasted into an application such as email or Twitter or blog posts. Twitter especially needs them since tweets are limited to 140 characters. The downside of  tiny URLs is that you, the user, cannot tell where they are going to take you and many people are hesitant to click on any link unless they know exactly where it will take them.

For example, how comfortable are you at clicking on the following link?

It sure looks scary. In fact, that link merely goes directly to this blog, but you would never know it. That sucks.

Unless... you know about the preview mode feature of which you can enable to automatically catch any attempt to open a tiny URL and displays the TinyURL preview Web page that shows the user exactly where the tiny URL wants to take them. The user can then opt to actually go to where the tiny URL wants to go or ignore it and go on to whatever else they wish to do.

Note, preview mode is a setting that the user will have to set. You, the author of the email, tweet, or blog post cannot force preview mode to be enabled for your reader, the user.

So, here is what your users (or you as a user) need to do...

To enable preview mode, go to the Web site, click on the "Preview Feature" link in the menu on the left side of the page. This will display the Preview page which will tell you the current setting for the preview mode flag (which is stored as a browser cookie.) This page will initially say "You currently have the preview feature disabled." That means preview mode is turned off. There will be a link below that message that says "Click here to enable previews." Go ahead and click that link, either on the Web site, or right here in this blog post. The Web page will refresh and display the message "You currently have the preview feature enabled." That means preview mode is now turned on.

Then, whenever you click on a tiny URL, in email or Twitter or a blog post or any other app that can follow a Web link, you will be taken to the Preview page that will display the messages "Preview of" and "This TinyURL redirects to:" followed by the full URL associated with the tiny URL. Below those messages you will see a link that says "Proceed to this site." Click on that link and then you will be taken directly to the Web page for that full-length URL. Or, you can go back to what you were doing or go on to something else.

TinyURL preview mode keeps you safe and worry-free about where tiny URLs might take you.

-- Jack Krupansky


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