Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

‘Link in Bio’ Is Apparently a Billion-Dollar Business

Alyssa Bereznak, writing for the Ringer in 2016:

The real reason the “link in bio” phenomenon has persisted is because Instagram is clingy. The company knows exactly the kind of endless scrolling its app encourages, and doesn’t want to interrupt its captive audience with pesky distractions that encourage people to venture outside its ecosystem. It doesn’t trust that we will come back.

But it should know, now that it has approximately 300 million daily users, that we almost certainly will. Even if Instagram is popular, it is limited by its platform’s abilities. It is not a blogging or commerce site, just a place where you can gaze at an alternate reality and aspire to it. As wonderful as it is to wade in a pool of glorious image soup, the network can’t keep kidding itself that it is a singular online destination. So, give us those caption links, Instagram. There’s enough room on the internet for everyone.

Anil Dash, writing in 2019:

There are some legitimate reasons platforms limit links. Spammers abuse links. Trust is hard to verify around links — too many scammers make links that look real, but lead to sketchy sites. Building a system to monitor all the links being posted on a big platform does take some cost. Maybe you can have a link again, if you are already in the 1% most influential users on the platform and put it in a story — the part of Instagram’s experience that drives the engagement metrics they care about. Maybe you just give up, and pay for links, by buying advertising.

But killing off links is a strategy. It may be presented as a cost-saving measure, or as a way of reducing the sharing of untrusted links. But it is a strategy, designed to keep people from the open web, the place where they can control how, and whether, someone makes money off of an audience. The web is where we can make sites that don’t abuse data in the ways that Facebook properties do.

Amanda Silberling, TechCrunch:

Over the last year and a half, Linktree raised a combined $55.7 million over two funding rounds. Today, the Australia-based company announced a $110 million all equity round led by Index Ventures and Coatue Management, with participation from AirTree Ventures, Insight Partners, and Greenoaks. This raise values Linktree at a whopping $1.3 billion. That’s a lot for what’s essentially a lightweight mini-website builder.

I am no venture capitalist, but that seems like a stunning amount of on-paper value to be hinging on a single product decision from Instagram. Notably, this valuation is higher than Instagram’s was when it was acquired by Facebook.