Does your application allow users to share links? Turn on secure link previews!
In this article, we will explore why and how you should extract metadata from a URL, and discuss ways to do this in a secure and efficient way.
Last updated on April 18, 2023
The way that we share and consume content online has changed a lot in the last years. Thats not a big surprise. Link sharing has become an enormously common thing across various websites and applications. This has enabled everyone to share all sorts of links. Articles, images, web pages, blog post, videos, and any other forms of media. At the same time, its also not a big surprise that too much link sharing can be dangerous. Links can be the Cybercriminal's favorite toy - they like to use external links to spread malware, steal sensitive information, or launch cross-site scripting attacks.To help mitigate such kinds of risks, many websites and applications need to scan the links being shared for any reported malware.
An additional way to protect against these kind of attacks is generating a preview of the link that is being shared (the webpage to which the link directs to). This preview can give the consumers a peek into the contents of the url, without having to actually open it.In this article, we will explore why and how you should extract metadata from a URL, and discuss ways to do this in a secure and efficient way.
Why Extract Metadata from a URL?
Here are some of the reasons why as a developer you should consider implementing a link preview utility on your website or application:
Enhance the user experience
Link previews can help users get a quick overview of the URL content, without having to click on the link (nobody likes to navigate away from the current page). Apart from saving time, this also helps keep the attention to the right place and enhance the browsing experience of the users.
Improve your Website/ Application Credibility
Link previews can also enhance the credibility of your website or application, as they provide a visual confirmation of the content being shared. This can help build trust with your users and improve the overall reputation of your website or application.
Prevent Security Threats
There are some advanced link previews that also have a built in security feature. Such link previews that also scan for malware can help reduce the exposure to security threats, such as malware and phishing attacks. They achieve that by scanning the urls being shared against well known malware databases. This can help protect users from falling victim to malicious schemes. This kind of combines a debugging tool with a link preview tool 🙂
How to Extract Metadata from a URL
If you want to extract metadata from a URL, there are different options that you can use including web scraping techniques, web scraping tools, or APIs. We might sound boring again but as always, there is no real right or wrong and it depends on the use case and situation. A free tool might sometimes be much more effective for you than the most expensive one and a basic API can be more efficient that the most sophisticated link preview generator.
Use Open Graph Protocol
Many websites out there include Open Graph Protocol (OGP) metadata in their HTML code. This protocol provides information such as the page title, description, image, and URL. You can extract this metadata by parsing the HTML code of the webpage by using a programming language like Python and a library like BeautifulSoup. OGP provides a fairly standardized way of including metadata in a webpage, making it easy for you to extract all the necessary information. The downside? Not all websites include OGP metadata, and the metadata may not always be up-to-date or accurate.
Use a Web Scraping Tool
If you don't want to write code, you can use a web scraping tool like ParseHub, Scrapy, or Octoparse to extract metadata from any URL. These link preview tools allow you to create a web scraping project by selecting the elements that should be extracted using their point-and-click interface. Web scraping tools are user-friendly and require no coding knowledge and background. However, if we need to find one limitation it is that they may not be as flexible or customizable as writing code from scratch, and they may not work on all websites.
Use an API
There is always the API solution! Some services offer APIs that extract and provide metadata for any given website or URL. For example, the Embedly API can provide information such as the title, description, author, and thumbnail image of a given webpage. The OpenGraph.io API also provides Open Graph metadata for any URL. One effective way to extract metadata from URLs and ensure secure link sharing is by using the ApyHub Link Preview API. With ApyHub, you and your team can easily integrate link preview functionality into your applications, allowing users to preview the content of a URL before clicking on it.
The security angle of the ApyHub API
ApyHub's Link Preview API provides a comprehensive set of metadata for any URL, including the page title, description, image, and URL. This metadata is extracted in real-time, ensuring that users always see the most up-to-date information about the link they are previewing. Additionally, the ApyHub API uses secure communication protocols, such as HTTPS, to ensure that all data exchanged between the user and the API is encrypted and protected from potential attacks.This way you can provide a more secure and smooth experience when sharing links on applications. With the ability to preview links and access comprehensive metadata, users can then make more informed decisions about whether or not to click on a link, helping mitigate potential security risks.
Sharing links on social media and other applications is here to stay. And as sharing becomes the norm, awareness and security becomes more important than ever.