Quo Vadis?

A link unshortener with an extra dimension
Created .
Updated .

Purpose

To uncover the somewhat obscure routing of shortened URLs, I made a small but practical browser add-on. 'Quo Vadis?' is a link unshortener with an extra dimension. It reveals every link in the chain of URL redirections.

Motivation

Shortened URLs such as ow.ly/8Pqgo or bit.ly/3yuZeRo are not transparent: you cannot see what their destination is. Moreover, many shortened URLs do not lead directly to their final destination, but use even less transparent detours. They often inject tracker URLs, unseen by you, before going to the destination URL.

That's very obscure, and potentially dangerous.

So I made an add-on, that shows every step in the chain of redirects: where the found link redirects to, where the redirected link redirects to, and so on, up to and including the final page location. Now a shortened URL has nothing more to hide.

This video shows how it works:

Examples

Quo Vadis? investigates where the selected URL leads and reports the progress real-time. A small temporary pop-up shows every link in the chain of URL redirections. The bottom URL is the final URL, where the selected URL would take you, eventually. Every URL in the list is clickable, right-clickable, and scrollable.

These examples illustrate a few things:

  • Just because the first URL uses HTTPS and the last URL uses HTTPS, that doesn't mean HTTPS is used the whole way.
  • Redirection URLs can be very long. That's why the list of URLs scrolls horizontally, and tooltips show the full URL as well.
  • Most 'affiliate' links use complicated codes in their URL parameters, that somehow represent you. (But how?)

When you see an interesting example, that does not show any sensitive information, be sure to share it, so I can add it to this gallery!

Value

When is this helpful?

  • When you are curious.
  • When you aspire to a more transparent internet.
  • When you don't want to blindly click on an obscure link.
  • When you want to avoid certain web domains, that follow you or misinform you.
  • When you want to see if your internet traffic is conducted completely over secure connections.
  • When you want to discover all intermediaries and affiliates that collect statistics about your click behavior.

Or all of the above.

User reviews

Here are some quotes from what other people are saying about 'Quo Vadis?', having used it themselves:

A must-have Very well done Very insightful Perfect!

It's great to know that we share the same concern and that this solution is appreciated by users.

Get the add-on

The Quo Vadis? browser add-on is published, reviewed by experts, rated by users, and made available for Firefox, at Mozilla.org. Go ahead and try it.

Go to 'Quo Vadis?' at Mozilla.org

Installing the add-on is rather straight-forward, but help with installing and managing Firefox add-ons (including the removal of add-ons) is available.

Usage

Once installed, select 'Quo Vadis?' from the context menu (right-click or command-click) of any link on any web page:

The add-on will then start to display URLs in the white pop-up. Check the examples above. While probing a URL, it's state changes dynamically. The state of a URL is shown by a symbol and a color:

Black: The URL is currently being probed. This changes quickly into another state.
Gray: The URL redirected to another URL, which is listed (and probed) next.
Orange: The URL returned an error (for example 404 Not Found, etc).
Red: The URL redirected to a URL that was already encountered in this chain of redirections. A circular reference.
Green: The Final URL, that returned no errors, and caused no redirections.

A green color does not mean the URL is "safe". Quo Vadis? does not detect security threats.

Support

If you have of any questions, comments, or if you found an interesting example, feel free to get in touch.

About

The Quo Vadis? add-on has been available since 2012. Version 2.0.7 was released in January 2022. The software is free of charge. It nevertheless respects your privacy. It is rated 5 out of 5 stars by users.

The add-on can handle all HTTP- and HTML-redirects. It relies entirely on the browser's internal capabilities, no external resources or servers are used. It does not suppress HTTP cookies. JavaScript cookies are suppressed. The source code is available under the 2-Clause BSD License.