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In firefox (several versions, but always with classic theme restorer) I get the URL of a link shown at the bottom (status bar) whenever I hover over a link. I had always assumed that this is also the URL used by firefox when clicking onto the link. However, this is apparently no always the case. I notice this discrepancy when installing uBlock.

Example: On the homepage of the german newspaper "http://www.derwesten.de/", there are many links to individual stories. One of them is displayed in the status bar as:

"http://www.derwesten.de/sport/fussball/bvb/bayern-fans-verbannen-bvb-star-marco-reus-vom-titel-bei-fifa-17-id12254625.html"

and this is also what I get when issuing 'copy link location". However, when actually clicking onto the link, I am asked by uBlock if I really want to go to the page

"http://logc175.xiti.com/go.ad?xts=420659&atc=PUB-[wgt_fp-HALTEPLATZ]-[id12254625]-[HL]-[Homepage]-[HP]-[WE]-[Linktyp]&type=AT&url=http://www.derwesten.de/sport/fussball/bvb/bayern-fans-verbannen-bvb-star-marco-reus-vom-titel-bei-fifa-17-id12254625.html".

It appears that the real link is wrapped into something pointing to an ad server. I can see why the website wants to do that, but I would have expected firefox to show the real link. Without uBlock, I would have never seen that I am redirected to a completely different site.

Is this standard behavior, and is there a way to change that?

  • 2
    I believe this is some javascript trickery, giving the links an onClick action that forwards the user to another URL than the link implies. Reddit did this a while back to insert affiliate links for sites like amazon (when the poster allowed it). As far as I know, the only way to get around this is by disabling javascript. – cascer1 Oct 7 '16 at 10:35
  • The version of the derwesten.de page which is served to me just contains a plain link for the 'Bayern-Fans' page. No trickery or redirects to ad pages. Thus, I don't think it's safe to conclude that what you're experiencing is "standard behavior". It is possible that different versions of the page are served to different users depending on some analysis (based on your HTTP request) that the server conducts prior to serving the page. – thomp45793 Oct 7 '16 at 13:41
  • This is not reproduced for me in firefox. Things work as expected (link shown is link opened). – nik Oct 7 '16 at 14:55
  • @nik, You do end up in the link shown. OP means there is a redirection in between. – istepaniuk Apr 11 '18 at 10:40
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TL;DR This is standard behavior. There is no easy way to change this without disabling JavaScript.

The same trick is used to track where does the user click in sites like twitter or facebook.

The link href property points to the destination site, for example http://www.example.com but the link element has a JavaScript event attached that either changes this URL on the fly or instructs the browser to open a different, arbitrary URL; For example http://something.com?track_this_and_then_redirect_to=www.example.com'.

Because sites use different JavaScript implementations to accomplish this, there is no way to prevent this other than disabling JavaScript.

Browser extensions or user scripts could of course alter the links on a site-per-site basis.

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