Why Instagram Links Cannot Preview in iMessage

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Instagram and iMessage don’t talk to each other. Well, in a little technical way that makes sending Instagram posts in text a little more annoying.

Have you recently noticed that Instagram links don’t generate previews when sent via iMessage? I noticed this irritation a few months ago and people were complaining about it on Reddit too. When you try to send an Instagram post to someone, all they see is the ugly Instagram URL. Users must click through to view the post. The horror!

It wasn’t always like this – Instagram previews used to work just fine. What’s especially weird about this problem is that Instagram previews only cause a problem in iMessage, not when sent through other platforms like Slack. Links from other sites like Twitter or Google are previewed when sending via iMessage.

What’s happening? Apple and Facebook (owned by Instagram) haven’t played well lately. Could this communication problem be anything else?

Probably not. While Apple wouldn’t comment on this, the developer guidelines include technical parameters and state that it is up to the developers to ensure that their links work together. In essence, Apple’s stance is that it’s not on them.

Instagram was looking into the problem when Mashable asked about it. After an investigation, the company found that it – aha! – A bug is in progress.

“This problem is due to a bug. We are actively working to resolve the previews of Instagram links in iMessage so that they load normally,” an Instagram spokesman said via email.

While Instagram was looking into the matter, I reached out to the Mysk Security Research Team, also known as Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk. They previously uncovered security vulnerabilities in the link preview and I wanted to see if they can pinpoint the problem.

Mission accomplished. While examining the network traffic between iMessage and Instagram, Mysk found that, oddly enough, Instagram only has one problem with previewing iMessage.

“When iMessage tries to open the link to look for metadata, Instagram forwards the requests to the login page,” Mysk said. “Since the Instagram login page doesn’t have metadata for link previews, iMessage doesn’t display anything.”

Oddly enough, when another service (known as a “user agent”) searches for metadata, Instagram does not forward it to the login page and can easily fulfill it.

If iMessage is the user agent (as shown in the highlighted text), Instagram gives it the bypass.

Mashable has asked Instagram if there are any more comments on this bug and will update these if we hear anything.

In the meantime, those annoyed with Instagram previews not showing up in iMessage will have to wait a little longer. Fear not, however, as Instagram says this will be fixed soon.

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