Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

New tool generates more useful Mastodon link previews in Messages

Just the other day, I was lamenting one of my big frustations with Mastodon—that links to posts, unlike tweets, don’t display nicely in Messages. Instead you get a preview that shows the poster’s profile image and their name, rather than the actual text or image of the post itself. Not exactly useful.

It was unclear to me exactly who to point the finger at here: Apple supposedly uses metadata from the open source Open Graph protocol to pull that information, so it seemed like it was potentially an issue with Mastodon…only the system’s creator, Eugen Rochko, confirmed in my mentions that they’d provided the appropriate information and it was up to Apple. It seems that Apple was taking additional steps to embed tweet information in their previews beyond the standard metadata.

Mastodon Link previews
Mastodon link previews in Messages currently (left) and using Tyler Hillman’s tool (right).

Well, the ball may be in Apple’s court, but not everybody’s waiting for them to return the serve. iOS developer Tyler Hillman has come up with a workaround: a web service that can provide the necessary metadata to show post content in Messages. Paste in any Mastodon post’s URL and you’ll get a new link, which will display nicely when you paste it in Messages. Not sastified with leaving it at that, Tyler also created a shortcut for macOS and iOS that makes the process even easier.

It’s likely Apple will at some point correct this oversight, making Tyler’s tool no longer necessary—an eventuality that he’s not just ready for, but eager: as he writes on the service’s site, “Please Sherlock me, Tim.” But until then, this is one way to ease the transition to the federated social network.

[hat tip: Lex Friedman]

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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