Here’s an interesting factoid. Panera Bread, the national bakery and cafe chain, has blocked all Bit.ly links from users who happen to be using Panera’s free WiFi. In a tweet to user who was inquiring about the issue, Panera’s official Twitter handle responded that the coffee shops have “blocked b/c link is hidden & can’t determine content. Want to keep a friendly-family environment for all.” Hmm.
It appears that Panera has also blocked many of the other popular URL shorteners as well. It’s true that a short URL obscures the target address and present opportunities for spammers, but many URL shorteners offer previews of the longer links or content to mitigate the chance of accessing a site you don’t want to visit.
And Bit.ly has its own protection against harmful links and recently started warning users of potentially malicious, based on information it has about URLs being shortened. Bit.ly will warn users who are accessing potentially malicious sites with a message that reads, “Warning – this site has been flagged and may contain unsolicited content. The content of this web page appears to contain spam, or links to unsolicited or undesired sites.” The URL shortener will then suggest to users to close the page. We’re fairly sure that Starbucks let’s you access shortened links off of their paid WiFi service.