What Are Ghost URLs?

By Evan Em

A URL is a Web address.
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There is a wide variety of Web services offered for developers. Among them are hosting, design, deployment, domain management and ghosting. Ghost URLs or shortened URLs allow the owner of a website to display only the crucial information in the browser window. Some of these services are free; others require a subscription or payment.


"URL" stands for "uniform resource locator" and it is displayed in your browser window. It usually begins with an http://www and contains the information necessary to locate a Web page. It is the Web address for a particular site. As an example, CNN's Web page URL is http://www.cnn.com.

Why Shorten?

A URL is actually a combination of a domain name and the location of a particular file. As an example, http://yourwebsite.com/home/contacts.html would be directing you to the "contacts.html" Web page in the "home" folder of the "yourwebsite" domain. This kind of specific site information is sensitive. It might not matter if the public has access to the specifics of your URL for your personal Web page, but it will matter if you are conducting transactions and exchanging personal information. Shortening this URL to http://yourwebsite.com adds a layer of security as well as makes the link nicer to look at.

How It Works

Shortening services provide a link that is actually a redirect. Meaning it creates a mask or ghost URL that might first send you to one location but redirect you to the appropriate place without the user ever knowing what is happening. The transition is seamless and the URL displays only the information that you requested it display. Some services uses JavaScript in order to make this happen. Be aware that not every browser has JavaScript enabled. Most do, but not all do. This might cause an issue for some of your visitors.


There are too many website shortening services to count. They all offer different varieties of the same service. Some allow you to customize the shortened URL, while others do not. Some ask for a payment and others do not. Find the one that is right for you before you shorten your URL. A few popular URL shorteners are GhostURL, Bitly and Google URL Shortener.