How to unshorten a URL

Shortened URLs based on the likes of,, and are convenient, but obscure the most important things you need to know about any link you are about to follow. Does it take you to a respectable and safe page, or are you just about to be dumped into the arms of the malicious?

There have been several online sites into which you can paste a shortened link, and they’ll show you the full URL of where it will take your browser. But it’s not something that I’ve come across in any macOS app until the arrival of Jeff Johnson’s Link Unshortener. This purposeful little app shows you the real destination URL.

Even if the link is safe, using it from your browser brings another significant snag: when you click on a shortened link in your browser, it will set a tracking cookie before it redirects your connection to the right page. As Jeff points out, those cookies are ‘first class’, because the link which you clicked has the tracker’s domain.


Link Unshortener, available from the App Store for the price of a decent cup of coffee, copes with any link shortening service, doesn’t go anywhere near cookies, just follows redirects and displays them for you. When you’re happy that you do want to open that link, it will do so for you using the browser of your choice, or will copy it ready for pasting into another app.

One final treat for those already using Jeff’s invaluable StopTheMadness Safari extension is that it lets you add Link Unshortener to Safari’s contextual menu, making it even easier to access.

StopTheMadness and Link Unshortener are both available from the App Store now.