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Expand short links with httpres

12 March 2016, Mike Williams

httpresLink shorteners like bit.ly, tr.im and T.co offer a convenient way to share URLs, but they also hide their real destination. Is it a malicious site? Who knows?

Websites like LongURL or CheckShortURL will usually expand short links for you, as long as they’re using a supported service.

Httpres is a portable tool which provides the same information – and a little more – on the Windows and Mac desktop.

The program works at the HTTP level, showing headers, response code and contents from HTTP requests.

This makes it more technical than the URL-expanding websites, but you do get more information, and it’s still easy enough to use.

httpres

Inspect a URL and its HTML code before opening it in your browser

All you have to do is enter the URL you’d like to investigate – a short link, maybe, or other address you don’t entirely trust – and click “Go”.

Within a few seconds httpres displays the website response in its upper pane. If this is a short link you’re hoping to expand, you’ll probably see “HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently”, and a “Location: ” line that shows you the real destination URL.

The lower pane displays the HTML code of your target URL. It won’t render it, so if there’s some malicious script then it won’t be executed, and you’ll be able to browse the code to get a feel for what it contains.

There are options to set custom user agents – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, iPhone and more, on various operating systems – allowing you to see how a website changes its behaviour for different browsers.

Httpres can also save its responses as text files, for analysis later.

This isn’t a program built for regular use. It doesn’t live in your system tray or integrate with any applications, it can’t detect when URLs arrive in the clipboard, there’s no “Find” option to search a URL’s HTML code, you can’t even hit “Enter” after typing a URL to process it: nothing whatsoever happens until you click “Go”.

Despite that, it can provide valuable information about a URL, and if you only need to use the program occasionally then it may be worth a look.

Httpres is a free application for Windows XP+ and Mac.

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