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I recently encountered this message while editing an answer on Gardening:

Body cannot contain "https://goo.gl/photos"

This problem with shortened URLs is interesting but over my head. Sorry.

  • Is this 'ban' new?
  • How can I undo a shortened URL?
  • How did I get a shortened URL?
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The ban is a few months old and covers 5 of the most popular / most-abused URL shortening services.

What is a "shortened" url?

A shortened URL is simply URL - a website address - that is designed to be as short as possible, which when used redirects to a longer "canonical" address. There are services dedicated to generating short URLs for arbitrary addresses; these services are used when posting long URLs in places that only allow limited amounts of text, such as Twitter. Due to the popularity of such services, many sites generate short URLs by default - for example, Stack Exchange sites use a shorter URL format when using the "share" tool on posts.

Why are these a problem?

  • They're frequently used by spammers to make it harder to recognize spam
  • Some of them are, in a sense, spam themselves (the service pays members a commission for using it, and makes money by showing a page full of ads to anyone who clicks through).
  • If either the shortened link or the URL it points to breaks, it can be difficult if not impossible to fix (we can find mirrors or cached copies of a canonical URL).

What should I post instead of a shortened URL?

Post the URL it redirects to.

For example, if the shortened URL you were going to post was https://goo.gl/photos/3NXJj5RyHJSBe1517, you'd just load that page and copy the resulting URL out of your browser's address bar. Then link to that instead of the shortened link.

  • Also you cannot tell where the link will take you if you hover over it. This can be abused to send people to unsavory places on the internet when the link is clicked (for example a link to a virus, adult content or illegal to view content) – DavidPostill Jun 12 '17 at 21:39
  • @DavidPostill While of course, I can totally tell that https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipN8H0RmqhQ42U1c35VxIjk4tc-G59fUD2hyijOPF1xNwl5o7f9gVThBzJMv5lHldQ?key=QjVrSHBLTE9fWVI4Ml9zbjNoS1ZQblpWZmloejhn is not unsavory, illegal, adult content. :P I don't see much difference between goo.gl/photos/random_characters and photos.google.com/share/random_characters here. Does anybody else? – Jason C Jun 12 '17 at 22:16
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    The problem is that you can use goo.gl for anything else you want to link to, @JasonC. So you gotta teach folks to differentiate between goo.gl/maps (safe) and goo.gl/photos (probably safe, unless someone were to use a camera for something unsavory) and goo.gl (could be anything). Realistically though, the bigger problems are the ones I listed in this post: Google will probably not break links to their own properties (?), but all bets are off if someone else created that goo.gl link. – Shog9 Jun 12 '17 at 22:29
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    @Shog9 I know that, I'm only talking about /photos and /maps. You could also just not block goo.gl/photos and goo.gl/maps, which makes way more sense (there is no reason at all to block goo.gl's non-root-path shortened links), and introduces zero vagueness, unless you find certain longitudes and latitudes offensive and don't appreciate not being able to see them in the URL, of course. – Jason C Jun 13 '17 at 2:22
  • That would mean putting a negative lookahead in what is currently a very simple regex, @jasonc. – Shog9 Jun 13 '17 at 2:53

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