Instant View for Custom Domains

Friday, June 5, 2020

If you want to add Instant View support for your website, the only official recourse you have is to create a template, submit it, request for it to be included and wait. There is no official word for how long it takes to review or even a guarantee that your domain will ever be accepted. I haven’t heard of any cases where templates for small blogs or media were added after following this process.

Luckily there’s another way to get Instant View by disguising your page as a Medium article. This includes adding some meta tags and slightly modifying page structure.

Big thank you to folks in Russian Instant View chat for discovering this.

Meta tags

The following two tags will trick Telegram into using Medium template for our site.

Additional tags are used to set up webpage preview (the block you see in the chat above Instant View button). These are optional.

Following tags modify parts of the Instant View page itself.

Page structure

You can refer to the source of this article as a starting point.

The best way to make your page work is to use native IV markup, i.e. something that would work with the most basic template:

~version: "2.1"
body: //article
title: //article//h1

Start by placing article content inside article tag and making sure title uses h1 tag. This should be enough to make Instant View work. From this point continue to adapt the source code fixing any issues by changing tags to what Telegram expects: refer to the “HTML counterpart” column in this table. Use @WebpageBot to force Instant View to update.

Place elements you wish to remove in Instant View inside header and footer tags. For example, on this page date is placed in article header div and is not shown in Instant View. Title (article header h1) is set before the entire header is removed.

Cover image (shown above title inside Instant View) can be added be placing following block inside article.

<section class="is-imageBackgrounded">
  <figure>
    <img src="https://i.imgur.com/ea3mHTv.png"/>
  </figure>
</section>

This code is specific to Medium template.

In fact, instead of using article and other semantic tags as suggested above, you can go ahead and match page structure of any Medium article, and this should generate Instant View just as well. Copy sample Medium template into a custom template to debug any issues.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, not all available properties can be set while using Medium template. Looks like there is no way to set kicker, author_url and document_url. If you find a way, please share it with me.

And this is it. This method is a good solution for standalone blogs and small-scale websites that are unlikely to receive official support soon.

If you believe significantly changing page structure would be too difficult or bad for SEO, you might want to create a special version of each page similar to Google’s AMP and then redirect Telegram crawler to it. Here is a snippet for nginx:

if ( $http_user_agent ~ 'TelegramBot' ) {
    return 301 /iv/$request_uri;
}

In this example /iv/hello.html is a simplified, Instant View compatible version of /hello.html. This was the first method discovered before the Medium trick was found.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.