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It used to be that people would say:

"Check the status bar before you click on a link, it might not be going where you think it is."

I've noticed that that doesn't help you anymore... many times on Facebook and other sites, I've noticed that the status text actually doesn't show where a link goes -- rather, it shows where it goes to after redirection from the server (which probably records your click).

(If you right-click it and copy the link address, it's different from what's in the address bar.)

Is this method safe anymore? Is there a way to force the status bar in either Firefox or Chrome to show the actual target?

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3 Answers 3

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From my experience it may be caused because when you click on a link (left-click) you fire javascript click event which redirects you somewhere else than link showed in statusbar.

Edit: and there is rather little to avoid this. You would have to turn off javascript in your browser.

Edit: I checked how it is done in google search results. When you search for something, they list results and links are direct addresses to found pages. But when you click on some result link (left, middle or right) they change link address to some google tracking site.

I hope it helps.

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How come when I right-click and copy the address it works fine though? –  Mehrdad May 19 '11 at 8:41
1  
It is done by creating normal link with address to desired page, so it looks ok in statusbar. But when you click on it, it fires javascript event which firstly redirects you to some tracking page and then to desired page. –  Beniamin May 19 '11 at 9:18
    
Oohhhh I see what you mean now... I thought it was precisely the reverse, haha. Interesting... thanks for the info. Seems like it wouldn't be so easy. –  Mehrdad May 19 '11 at 9:45

As far as I can tell it is not safe anymore - at least not a sure-fire way to know what clicking on an apparent link will do. There are too many ways for sites to know what you're doing, and the pass-through-a-redirect-page is common enough - but so are other methods. Here is a discussion of some of the methods to do click-tracking (including how to make the status text different from the target URL): http://www.openjs.com/articles/ajax/target_url_hiding.php

Keep your malware detection software up-to-date!

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This isn’t really a JavaScript issue, it’s the growth in popularity of URL-shrinking sites because of Twitter’s character limit.

What you’ll want to do is to install one of the URL-expanding extensions. Most of them have the same basic function: expanding shortened URLs; some automatically expand all URLs in a page, some don’t expand, but show the target URL in a tooltip, others expand only after you click a link. They try to differentiate themselves a bit in their feature-sets, so try a few to pick one you like. You can install several, disable them all, then enable one and view a page with some shortened URLs, try out the extension, then disable or uninstall it and enable the next one. Don’t enable them all though because if they’re all trying to parse and change the page at the same time, it’ll slow your system down and they can interfere with each other (and make it harder to determine which features are from which extension).

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