Redirect Checker Tool

Shortlinks are common on the web nowadays, popular domains include bit.ly, buff.ly, ow.ly, fb.me and t.co.

This redirect test tool will follow the server side redirects of a link through the HTTP status codes and Header["Location"] information of an HTTP response so you can see where the link is being tracked and which servers it hits on the way.

Try it with one of the following examples:

Enter URL below:

Redirect HTTP tracing

This tool illustrates the path of where a link actually leads and which servers are accessed before you get to the page you thought you originally had requested.

You can also use it to test your links generated with bit.ly or similar short link services to verify that your redirects all work properly.

Why are links being redirected?

Redirecting links or URLs can have many purposes. In theory they are used to tell anybody who requests a page that the content they are looking for has moved to another location. Currently their main use is to record, track and analyse clicks and hits for statistics. This is both true for email marketing, social networks and other media where a user is exposed to links.

What are HTTP status codes?

The numbers that show up in the coloured boxes are the HTTP status codes that tell a browser or anything that requests a URL what the status of that address / resource is. If it's 200, everything is fine and the page will now be served. If it's 301, 302 or some others, a redirect will happen.

Most common HTTP status codes

How are users tracked with HTTP redirects?

Users can be tracked if the link they receive is unique (example email marketing), that means the server that redirects just remembers that somebody has accessed that link.

On social media links you can build statistics over how many people click a certain link by counting how many times that server has to do a redirect for a specific link. Both facebook and twitter work that way.

Example:If a shortened link first sends you to something like http://tracking.emailservicesystem.com/u/4350251235245345/mailid/94325949529524 and afterwards you land on another website, it's been recorded that you clicked that link.

Are HTTP redirects bad?

The redirects aren't bad as such, the problem is that of course you involuntarily may reveal data about yourself as for example: which links you click and when you click them. If I sent you an email about a dating website with a link in it, I would be able to tell with 100% certainty if that link had been clicked.

Your wife or husband may be displeased by that, so I would categorize many of the data points collected as very personal.

From a data science point of view redirects and the statistical data gathered by it are interesting and help marketeers to understand their target group better.

Further reading

If you want to know how I built this site, check out my blog post: Tracing or Preventing HTTP Redirects in Golang!

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