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Link Unfurling Engines: Quality, Flavor And Brewing Techniques

Link unfurling engines in group chat platforms like WhatsApp and Slack, also called microbrowsers, render webpage links. Just like modern browsers, microbrowsers consume webpages, but unlike modern browsers, they do not run JavaScript and CSS nor support cookies to create a thumbnail or summary view of the page. The design and usability of webpage previews in private chats is the single most important influencer to attracting new customers, so they deserve more attention.

About The Session

  • Speaking: Colin Bendell
  • Date:

Most of our web traffic is generated from the usual suspects — Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge. Yet there is a segment of browsers that are heavily responsible for attracting new customers to our sites. In absolute terms, these microbrowsers account for a small number of hits, but are simultaneously directly responsible for over 80% of new “direct” visitors to our websites.

Every chat platform includes some capabilities for link unfurling. This includes SMS clients, iMessenger, Whatsapp, WeChat, FB Messenger, Slack, Microsoft Teams and many more. They all support the ability to share URLs in private chats and expand them to provide the user with a thumbnail and preview of the link. This unfurling behaves similarly to a browser, but does not execute JavaScript, nor uses CSS or accept cookies. Instead, these microbrowsers look for other parts of the markup to provide this preview.

Microbrowsers all have different capabilities and can adopt widely different layout and rendering in the link unfurl preview. In this session, Colin Bendell will explore how microbrowsers work and how to go beyond the typical push-marketing style of Twitter/Facebook previews and provide richer and more engaging content.

We will discuss:

  • Performance implications of microbrowsers.
  • Best practices for markup and layout for previews — including images and video content.
  • How to track conversion and impact without compromising privacy.
  • How to combine the dynamic aspects of the CMS and webpages into link previews.

About The Speaker

Colin (@colinbendell) is passionate about mobile performance, user experience and data. He is co-author of High Performance Images, speaker, researcher, writer and developer at Cloudinary. Previously, he was part of the CTO Office at Akamai, managed Infrastructure and Operations at a Uranium mining company and owned a automotive wheel repair shop.
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