Last year, I decided to stop posting to Instagram as part of my ongoing (and some days more successful than others) goal of posting more to spaces that I control (specifically, this blog) instead of constantly pumping content into closed systems.
I’ve never entirely stopped using Instagram, though — I still check in fairly regularly to see what my friends there are posting — and over the past few weeks, as we’ve been getting closer to the new year, I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to posting there. There are ways to automatically cross-post between Instagram and this blog, so I figured that it might be worth uploading there again, as long as I cross-posted here, and participating again instead of just lurking.
However, a couple things over the past few days have me leaning back towards sticking with my lurker status. The first was Anil Dash’s post “Link In Bio” is a slow knife:
Links on the web are incredibly powerful. There are decades of theory behind the role of hyperlinks in hypertext — did you know in most early versions, links were originally designed to be two-way? You’d be able to see every page on the web that links to this one. But even in the very simple form that we’ve ended up with on the World Wide Web for the last 30 years, links are incredibly powerful, opening up valuable connections between unexpected things.
For a closed system, those kinds of open connections are deeply dangerous. If anyone on Instagram can just link to any old store on the web, how can Instagram — meaning Facebook, Instagram’s increasingly-overbearing owner — tightly control commerce on its platform? If Instagram users could post links willy-nilly, they might even be able to connect directly to their users, getting their email addresses or finding other ways to communicate with them. Links represent a threat to closed systems.
Instagram’s lack of support for URLs in captions has been a hassle to deal with (admittedly, less so for my personal account, and more so when I was managing Norwescon’s account, but still a hassle), I just hadn’t put as much thought into it as Anil does in his post. As John Gruber summarizes it, “‘link in bio’ is fucking bullshit“.
The other thing was trying to update a post from a year ago that had been mirrored from Instagram, but at some point the image had broken. In trying to find a new link for the
src argument in the
img tag, I first found that there was no easy way to just grab the image (not in itself a bad thing, as it’s likely at least in part an anti-image-theft measure), so I figured I could just grab Instagram’s ’embed’ code and find the image link in there. However, their embed code is obfuscated in some way so that there isn’t a simple image link anywhere in there that I could find, and it ends up being a huge mess of code (check under the cut at the end of the post to get a sense of how much garbage code Instagram wants us to use when displaying an image elsewhere).
In the end, I just used Safari’s developer mode to extract the image and manually uploaded it to WordPress to add it to the post. I’ve also downloaded all my Instagram data so that I have a local archive I can use as a source for manually correcting any other now-broken Instagram cross-posts that I find in the future.
So the end result is that no, I won’t resume uploading to Instagram after all. But, for now, I’ll keep my account around so I can keep peeking at my friends’ lives, at least.