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Why Can't Instagram Get Links Right?

by Kate Lindsay

As someone who writes for websites for a living, I’ve tried just about every way to share my work on Instagram without looking like a boomer. I’ve posted screenshots to my grid, shared photos related to the text  to trick the algorithm, and even screen-recorded video of myself reading the story on mobile. No matter what I do, every attempt ends the same way: “link in bio.”

Despite being a loyal user since around 2014, I’ve yet to earn the 10,000 followers or verified status that would allow me to link freely via the swipe-up feature on my Instagram Story. So when I saw that Instagram was retiring the swipe-up function on August 30 in favor of a new feature—link stickers—all the possibilities danced through my head. Story highlights of my past writing! An easy way to link out to charities and other resources! A whole new opportunity to share the things I’m seeing and loving online! But the fine print of the announcement, written up in The Verge, revealed it was not to be. Or at least, not yet.

“Instagram says that for now, only people who had swipe up privileges will receive the sticker option, but that it’s ‘still evaluating’ rolling it out to more users,” Ashley Carman writes.

I don’t understand what there is to still evaluate. Time and time again, regular users have proved their appetite for links, perhaps never more so than summer 2020, when the platform really could have benefited from an easy way to share both anti-racist resources and health information about the worsening pandemic. But even as early as 2016, Alyssa Bereznak lamented **in The Ringer** about Instagram links, and how they forced users to clunkily direct followers to bios via non-chronological posts that frequently don’t reach audiences in a timely manner.

“It’s as if there were a permanent snowstorm in a city, and the mayor refused to clear the sidewalks,” she wrote.

But even if Instagram were to solve all this today, there’s just one more thing: apparently the link stickers...are not good.

“The user experience is so bad,” **Tara Marzuki,** a creator with over 75,000 followers, wrote on her Instagram Story about the link stickers. “They beta tested it on me two months ago and the stats are weird—went from getting hundreds of normal swipe ups to it saying like ‘two people clicked your link sticker’ which is both sus and is terrible for working with brands.”

So if Instagram’s current link situation is shafting small creators and large ones alike, then who, exactly, is it serving? Instagram, I suppose, because all these half-hearted features mean people stay on the app. However, it won’t be long until the inability to leave instagram starts to feel claustrophobic—and it’s the regular users, the majority of the app yet the ones who’ve never been rewarded for their Instagram loyalty, who might just feel it’s time to leave first.