Why Do Adam Schefter’s Links Look So Weird?
4:13 PM EST on December 27, 2020
ESPN releases a few Adam Schefter stories every Sunday morning during the NFL season. When they’re not directly related to the games being played that Sunday, they’re usually mini-scoops that can maybe keep people tuned into ESPN’s pregame show.
He had a few this morning. Vic Fangio would remain the Broncos' coach next season. The Bears may bring back Mitch Trubisky. Several teams are interested in bringing ex-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to the NFL. Several teams are interested in hiring Kansas City assistant Mike Kafka as their next head coach; several coaches and GMs are interested in the Jaguars job now that they’re likely to get the No. 1 pick.
Schefter is very well-sourced; these stories are undoubtedly true. Some of them are interesting. And I have to tip my cap: Schefter always has more stories on Sunday than I do. But there is one thing Schefter does every Sunday that confuses the heck out of me: He always tweets his stories with a link that is roughly the length of Remembrance of Things Past.
You won’t see these long links if you use the Twitter website or app. Twitter converts the links to a user-friendly preview image, headline and subhead. Some chat apps do the same. But if you use a third-party Twitter app like I do—or paste the tweet into Slack to share the news with your Defector coworkers that former Northwestern QB Mike Kafka is finally getting his big break—you see this big long link.
Schefter’s URL in the above example is 386 characters; the direct espn.com link of his Kafka story is a mere 132. Schefter’s link is nearly three times the length!
So what gives? I have an idea. Schefter probably doesn’t write all these stories on Sunday morning, and I’m pretty sure he’s not up all night on Saturday working the phones and filing stories about how some teams might want Urban Meyer as their new head coach.
Schefter likely only tweets these stories after an editor sends him the link when they’re published. And, since ESPN uses Outlook for its email system, it's possible the link that gets sent to Schefter is protected with Microsoft Defender’s Safe Links add-on. Here’s what it does:
Safe Links scans incoming email for known malicious hyperlinks. Scanned URLs are rewritten using the Microsoft standard URL prefix:
https://nam01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com. After the link is rewritten, it's analyzed for potentially malicious content.
Schefter then copies the link without clicking it, writes up a tweet, and sends it out. So when he pastes the link, he pastes the ridiculously long Safe Links version.
My only other idea is that ESPN's site is full of malware and Schefter wants to protect us from it. This seems less likely than my first idea; I haven’t found anything even mildly malicious on ESPN’s website since the days of X10 spy cam pop-unders. At publication time, ESPN PR did not return a request for comment, and with good reason.
Also, did you see that Bears story? They are really thinking about bringing back Mitch Trubisky? Great! Can’t wait to see how that goes for everyone.