Facebook: The End of Custom Link Preview Snippets (Deprecation by July 18th)

 Update 2017-08-03:  I’ve written a followup – Facebook Link Previews – The Current State & 5 Workarounds To Modify Link Posts After July 18th!

 Update 2017-07-20, 19:00:  We’ve got another official update from Facebook! This email (see full text below) was sent to several media partners & publishers last Tuesday. The statement leaves some room for interpretation, but here is what we believe it means:

  • Facebook introduces a permanent way to modify link previews for media publishers – and for those only (all other brands seem to be out of luck). This new feature is called “link ownership”.
  • Link Ownership verifies (on a domain-level) that a certain website is connected to a Facebook Page. This page therefor is allowed to customise link previews – but only for posts shared on that domain!
  • It remains unclear, who exactly qualifies as “media publisher” and how someone might apply to this category
  • Link Ownership is currently starting to roll out to media publishers – we have yet to see the feature in the wild, though Facebook claims the rollout will be completed before Sep. 12th.
  • Meanwhile, the Facebook API ignores modified link previews – with the exception of whitelisted apps like Swat.io (we’re constantly testing & monitoring behaviour this to avoid any problems)!
  • Many apps, notably Falcon.io, Facelift and Hootsuite have already deactivated customisation of link previews in their UI – we don’t really know why. If you’re a user of these products and want to share your experience, get in contact!

Dear partner,

I want to follow up on our blog post from last month regarding the ability to modify link previews – we built a tool for you to continue customizing how your own links appear on Facebook. While we’re removing this capability for most Pages to remove a loophole for false, misrepresentative content, we know this is a key part of your publishing strategy and we’re committed to supporting your workflows. Over the next few weeks we need your help authorizing which of your own Pages should have access to editing your link previews. Here are the details:

What’s happening on 7/18

We’re introducing a process for media publishers Pages to indicate link ownership so that Facebook Page admins have a way to edit links from the website domains they “own” or are associated with. To allow your Pages to continue editing your site’s links in Page composer, you must authorize your Page first. You will be able to follow the instructions here to begin authorizing your Pages when the tool goes live.: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/pages/link-ownership

We are extending the link preview modification deprecation timeline for you to give you time to indicate link ownership. On September 12, 2017 we will complete the feature removal such that your Page(s) will only be allowed to edit links from website domains you’ve authorized them for.

Here are some important things to note:
You have until September 12, 2017 to authorize your Page(s)
Both your Page admins and your website domain managers will be involved in the authorization process. You can authorize multiple Pages to modify link previews from multiple domains; see the documentation for details.

Note: If any of your Pages do not have access to the link ownership tool, this week or after September 12th, please let me know – we want to support the workflow for
customizing link previews for Pages that modify links to their own articles at scale.
We worked directly with third-party publishing apps to extend the deprecation timeline for apps that support publishers.

After September we will take time to learn how this solution works for publishers and the ecosystem. As content customization evolves, we will continue to work closely with our partners to support the best tools for sharing links on Facebook.

Visit our Help Center for more information, and let me know if you have other questions.”


 Update 2017-07-18, 23:10:  Today is the day! As the announced change re. custom link previews was expected for July 18th, we’ve been closely monitoring both API & the FB.com UI all day.

We can confirm that:

  • All API versions now omit custom link previews (no error message, custom title, description & thumbnail are simply ignored – compare this post with the screenshot above).
  • Custom link previews still work for selected apps (I’ve successfully tested Swat.io & Buffer – if you’re using other 3rd party tools, I recommend to test behaviour soon).
  • Custom link previews still seem to be work when posting straight to fb.com – we expect this to change in the coming hours.

This means Facebook made good on their announcement, and it’s time to say goodbye to custom link previews for many users… 😭 Professional publishing tools like Swat.io will continue to support custom link previews until October, when we expect FB to come up with a broader solution. Don’t panic, follow this blog post for updates, or contact us at support@swat.io if you need any assistance! 😀


 Update 2017-07-12, 12:10:  Yesterday’s bug, preventing the customisation of preview snippets in the FB.com user interface, has been fixed! We expect this to remain stable until July 18th, when we feature will be retired as reported here before!


 Update 2017-07-11, 12:00:  We’ve been receiving reports claiming the customisation of link previews is not working as of today. Our own tests have confirmed: link posts published directly on FB.com always display the original sharing snippet (customisation is still allowed in the UI but plainly ignored when published). Link posts published through the API and Swat.io are not affected! 😅  The new behaviour was confirmed being a bug by a FB employee in this thread, so we assume this will be fixed soon (at least until July 18th ;).


 Update 2017-07-10, 16:39:  We’ve received an official update re. the customisation of link preview snippets from our Partner Managers at Facebook! In this mail, Facebook acknowledges that editing link previews is crucial to many professional publishers. Facebook therefore decided to delay this API change for certain apps until October 2017, in order “to learn how best to support publishers through this change”. This means…

  • You will be able to continue using Swat.io to publish link posts with customised title, description and thumbnails – at least until October 2017! (no specific date was given)  😁
  • We understand that this delay is only effective for selected apps like Swat.io.
  • We believe the announced deprecation is still going into effect for all other apps (and, most likely, the Facebook.com user interface) on July 18th.
  • Over the next months, we expect Facebook to continue the discussion and hope for a thorough solution to be presented in time before October. Of course, we’ll keep you updated here on the blog.

Read the full text below! If you’ve any questions, feel free to reach out to support@swat.io!


In response to feedback from media publishers regarding a change to the Graph API, we want to help ease a transition period that your clients (and our partners) will soon go through. We recently posted the high-level strategy for our plan.

As part of our continuing efforts to stop the spread of misinformation and false news on our platform, earlier this year at F8 we announced an important change to our Graph API: Graph API version 2.9 includes a 90 day deprecation of the ability to edit previews attached to link posts. We’d like to share more details as they pertain to your app on the coming change.

Over the past few months we worked with publishers and publishing applications (some of which provide Facebook Media solutions, other that are Facebook Marketing Partners) to understand why editing link previews is important to them. We have identified several publishers using your application that rely heavily on this functionality. In order to provide these publishers more time to adapt to the changes, we are temporarily extending the deprecation timeline for your application. Pages publishing with your app will still be able to specify the picture, name, thumbnail, and description parameters when submitting POST requests to the {page-id}/feed edge until October. Between July 18th, when the API change goes live, and October, we will learn how best to support publishers through this change and develop a timeline for if and when the ability to modify link previews will be fully removed from the API. We will let you know well before we make this change.

We know you have an extensive list of clients who may be using this feature. However, apps whose customers abuse this feature in any way (for example, misrepresenting link content, spamming people with posts that do not meet our Community Standards may lose access to this extended deprecation timeline, with or without advance notice.

Our goal is to limit malicious misrepresentations of underlying link content, while supporting publisher workflows and application functionality. As content customization evolves we will continue to work closely with our partners to support the best tools for safely sharing links on Facebook.

If you have some time this week, I would love to discuss the details in person and answer any questions you have.

Thanks.


 Update 2017-07-05, 17:30:  Just for the record, from the API side everything seems pretty clear: the official documentation now (not sure since when) says:

A quick test against the API reveals: in fact, custom preview snippets don’t work anymore on v2.9 (while they still work on v2.8, as expected re. the documentation).


 Update 2017-07-04, 19:00:  While it’s still unclear when and to what extent Facebook might restrict page admins’ ability to customise preview snippets of link posts starting July 18th (or later), users already are noticing changes in the FB UI indicating that change is indeed imminent. Today, Thomas Hutter (http://www.thomashutter.com/) and others report, that custom link previews already have been removed from “Page Posts” in Business Manager – at least for some users (the screenshot below shows how the Page Posts dialogue still looks for me, vs. what Thomas is seeing on the right side). From our side, the situation remains very much unclear – we’ll keep watching!


 Update 2017-06-30, 10:35:  In a recent developer blog post, Facebook has again confirmed the upcoming API change. However, FB acknowledged that:

“We also understand that many publishers have workflows that rely on overwriting link preview metadata to customise how their content appears to audiences on Facebook. We’re committed to a solution that supports them […] We’re working to find other solutions that allow publishers to share customised content on our platform, and we will have more to share in the coming weeks. As we make these changes, content creators maintain the ability to control how their links appear on Facebook using Open Graph meta tags.”

What exactly this means for July 18th remains unclear, but we are optimistic that FB will provide *some* way for professional publishers to customise their link preview after that date. Of course, we’ll continue to stay in contact with FB and do our best to make Swat.io ready when- and however these changes will go into effect. If you’ve got any questions about the issue, feel free to contact us at support@swat.io!


 Update 2017-06-29, 09:40:  Here’s a confirmed bug report from a few weeks ago, which seems to confirm the API change at least for API v2.9. We haven’t heard back from FB yet, so for now that’s all we got!


 Update 2017-06-27, 20:30:  We’ve just got a message from our partner managers at FB, stating that in fact FB is *not* getting rid of link editing, and the note to FMPs was oversimplified. Since the upcoming change is still published on the official API changelog (and APIs don’t lie ;), we’re not sure what to make of this – but hope for clarification soon! We’ll keep you posted.


 Original Post, 2017-06-27, 10:12: 

With the release of Graph API V2.9 earlier this year, Facebook also announced the deprecation of a feature held dear by many professional publishers: starting July 18th 2017, preview snippets (title, description, image) for link posts no longer can be modified (at least when publishing through a 3rd party tool). Just in case you wonder, this is what we’re talking about: 

While the original change log from April doesn’t comment on the change, Facebook followed up with an explanation on the Marketing Partners email list yesterday:

“Allowing modification of link headlines and images when sharing posts has provided a potential vehicle for malicious users to misrepresent underlying link content, and hence Facebook is removing the capability.”

While the intention is laudable, this change will definitely bring some challenges to professional publishers using Swat.io and other tools like Buffer to schedule and post their content on Facebook. To ease your pain, we’ve collected everything on how to prepare for this change in this post. If you’re feeling lost – please get in contact with our support team – we’ll be happy to help!

Who’ll be affected by this change?

Everybody using a 3rd party tool to publish link posts to Facebook will be affected by this change. Interestingly, FB states that “this change applies only to organic link posts created via API, link ads are not impacted”. This means that ads created through PowerEditor or Ad Manager will still allow to modify the preview snippets of link post ads.
It is currently unclear if and when this change will be reflected on the fb.com user interface (i.e. publishing link posts straight to Facebook), but given the motivation of this change we’re expecting this to be the case.

How will the change affect users of Swat.io and other publishing tools?

Starting July 18th, you won’t be able to manually override title, description and sharing image for link posts you schedule and publish on Facebook pages – so this is not going to work anymore:

This will not only affect Swat.io, but all scheduling and publishing tools using the Facebook API.

How will preview snippets work instead?

Facebook will continue to automatically populate the preview snippet by looking at the Open Graph meta tags on the shared web page. By using these meta tags, a publisher can indicate which text/images should be used by FB when sharing the link. If the shared web page doesn’t include Open Graph meta tags (worst case), Facebook’s crawler will make an educated guess and pick title, description & image on its own (often leading to sub-par results).

Attention: please consider that open graph tags might be changed by the publisher between scheduling the post on Swat.io and the actual time of publishing! Furthermore, Facebook is caching open graph tags for up to 24 hours. For those reasons, actual preview snippets might be inconsistent with what you’d expect in some cases.

How can I prepare for the change?

If you regularly share content from your own website, make sure you’ve implemented Open Graph on all pages for an optimized sharing experience! (if you haven’t already, which most of you probably do).

If you’re unsure if you’re all set, use the Facebook Sharing Debugger to test your site – don’t worry, this is fairly easy. Just go to https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/, copy/paste the URL you want to examine and click “Debug”. To avoid any caching issues, it’s a good idea to immediately “Scrape Again” afterwards: 

The Debugger will display a link preview based on the Open Graph tags found on your page. It will also surface warnings or errors on missing tags. Repeat this test for several pages on your website, to make sure the Open Graph tags are implemented on all of them.

If you’re not happy with the link preview or encounter any errors, please notify the developers / engineering team responsible for your site. If yu’re unfamiliar with Open Graph, you’ll find all info at https://developers.facebook.com/docs/sharing/best-practices and https://developers.facebook.com/docs/sharing/webmasters.

And of course: you can always reach out to support@swat.io – we’ll be happy to help!


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About the Author

Michael Kamleitner

Michael Kamleitner is CEO & Product Manager at Swat.io, a Social Media Management solution that’s helping companies to improve their customer support & content management on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Swat.io is currently used by companies such as 3Österreich, Hitradio Ö3, ÖBB, Focus Online and Burda Intermedia.

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