WordPress stopped supporting interactive embeds for Facebook and instagram back at the end of October. Facebook was changing the way that their content was going to work with outside sources like WordPress and other publishing platforms, making it necessary for anyone who wanted to have interactive embedding on their platform to maintain a official relationship with Facebook (an official relationship that probably has dollar figures attached to it) if you didn’t do this new thing that Facebook wanted, Facebook was going to cripple your ability to embed their content.
Back when I was writing on Blogger, I never had the really nice ability to just pop in a link to outside material and have it work seamlessly inside my blog articles. If I wanted to post my comments to Robert Reich’s or Stonekettle’s or whoever’s work on Facebook, or include photos from Instagram, I had to make a picture of the thing and embed that in my article, then manually add caption material to the image in order for readers to find what I was talking about.
When I started writing on WordPress I realized just how arcane the entire blog-writing process had become on Blogger. It was possible to embed all kinds of material from outside sources directly into my articles and never have to take another screenshot again unless I wanted to pretty up the article when linked somewhere else. Now that Facebook has decided it will take its toys and leave the sandbox, I realized just how spoiled I had become. It was going to be a serious pain the ass to go back and re-edit all those articles that I had put interactive links into, replacing the links with images like I used to have to do on Blogger.
Luckily for me I was given a heads-up on the upcoming changes, and the fact that WordPress was going to stop supporting Facebook and Instagram embeds as part of their core editing interface. That heads-up came in the form of a recommendation that I install some new plugins for WordPress that would handle the issue for me.
There are a lot of plugins for WordPress that you really do need to have installed if you are going to be using WordPress at all. Essential things that need to be addressed such as website administrator security and spam comment filters and a whole host of other things that I might or might not get around to writing about when I finally finish the article I threatened to write two years ago when I migrated to WordPress and realized how much work was involved in just leaving Blogger and taking my stuff with me.
So adding two more plugins to handle Facebook and Instagram embeds? Not a big deal. I looked them up. Lots of installs for the plugins. Very highly rated plugins. So I installed them and I’ve had no complaints. Had no complaints until I noticed a curious problem with disappearing captions.
The only reason this article exists on the blog today is because the Smash Balloon plugin put a nagger on the top of my editing screen and encouraged me to leave a review for their plugins, since I loved them so much. This was the review I wrote for them.
I’m happy that these plugins exist, the Smash Balloon Custom Facebook Feed and the Smash Balloon Instagram Feed. You could say I’m ecstatic, even. I mean, since WordPress decided that they wouldn’t do the required work that Facebook added to the ability to link directly and interactively to Facebook and Instagram articles, someone was going to have to do the work for them and I certainly wasn’t going to be able to do the work myself. I would just go back to screenshotting the articles I wanted to discuss on the blog and then add captions back to them for anyone interested enough in the source to go look at the original article.
Captions are the problem with these plugins, though. I can add captions to them when I’m editing and they will show up in the article. But if I go back in and re-edit (as any writer does and should do) the captions are strippped off of the embed and I have to recreate them again. This is more than a little maddening since historically I have left off linking information and so lost access to source material when that material went offline later. With captions I can at least go look on archive.org or the google archive for historical information about missing articles. When the plugin then strips the data that I’ve taken the time to put into my captions specifically because I don’t want to lose the original linking information, it is basically breaking the thing that I take extra time and effort to do. In the meantime I will pull captions off of the embeds and put them under the linked article in a separate paragraph (like I used to have to do on blogger) but it seems like a cludgy way to get around a plugin behavior that I never encountered when WordPress was doing this work for me. If someone could fix that issue, that would be great.
I just tested it with an Instagram embed. I hadn’t actually used the Instagram embed plugin before, but lo and behold I had an article that had an instagram embed in it (I did remember writing one) that I hadn’t published before today. Weirdly enough, Instagram embeds don’t strip the captions off of the embed, only Facebook embeds rebuild themselves each time you open them, stripping off the captions in the process. So, there you go. Just figure out why the Instagram one works right.