May 11, 2010, 9:53 PM — The Web is full of short URLs such as bit.ly/cwd2hp. The products of URL-shortening services--bit.ly, Tiny URL, and others--these cryptic URLs appear on social networking sites such as Twitter--and increasingly in other places on the Web as well. Those shortened links are useful for people posting them, but they pose a problem for the people who might want to follow them. Before you click, you have no idea where they lead.
The free Firefox add-in Expand Short URL does an excellent job of solving the problem. Right-click any short URL and select Expand Link, and a box pops up, showing you the original, long link. You can copy it to the clipboard, or immediately head to the location where the URL links.
The add-in works with the major URL shortening services, and does so without a hitch. Expand Short URL works on all Web pages, including Web mail services and social networking sites.
Expand Short URL does the same task as another Firefox add-in, Long URL Please. There is only a minor difference between the two. Long URL Please doesn't require you to right-click a link; you see the original long link right on the Web page. Which should you use? If you want to see the actual short links on a page, and only want to see the long links in certain instances, Expand Short URL is a better bet. If you want to see all shortened links automatically lengthened, Long URL Please is a better bet.