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How to share a URL in iMessage without a preview of a link

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I constantly share web pages with friends and family via iMessage – mainly from the Messages app on my MacBook Pro or iMac, often from my iPhone and sometimes from my iPad. It could be a link to a limoncello recipe on allrecipes.com for mom, an entry for a pre-CBS Strat on reverb.com for another gearhead, or a YouTube video of facial puppies stacked high on a giggle 8-year-old old for my daughter. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably do the same. (Well, maybe not particularly liqueurs, guitars and pets.)

What’s cool is that the Messages app does something pretty useful. Because it’s smart enough to know that what you’ve typed or pasted is a link to a website, it’s preview thumbnails for everyone’s enjoyment. But there are occasions when I want my recipient to see the actual text of the domain name. Why? It does not belong to you. Just kidding!

Here is an example …

Unwanted preview of site case scenario

My brother Tom registered a domain name and requested that my host name serve the new record. I get it – a small copy and paste action saves a few seconds of typing. It is called optimizing time and efficiency. No problem. So using Messages on my Mac I sent:


And this is what it looked like:

Messages trying to render a non-domain name
The blue circle is a carriage return

Drat. What happened?

Messages tried to render the URL but could not because there was no place on the site – nothing to pass through HTTP. Not a very big deal because all I wanted was the text string to print, anyway. But even that did not happen. Note: The blue circle in the image above is from a carriage return in the text.

Knowing that Apple almost always thinks about these things (they are very good at anticipating the needs of the user interface), I thought there had to be a solution. All it took was a little intuition and a few tests.

How can I prevent messages from showing a link preview?

Test 1

The first thing that came to my mind was to lead the domain name with a period (usually referred to as a “dot”). Why? I do not know. I guess I realized that a user-accessible URL never starts with a leading dot because the hierarchy is read from right to left.

I tested my theory:


Sure enough, it worked! Well, kind of. The second entry printed with the period at the beginning:

Test 2

Maybe some kind of parenthesis will do the trick. Why smaller and larger than symbols? Again, I have no idea. But this time I really mean it – I can not even dare to guess why.


Test 3

How about starting the whole thing with a dot? Maybe it will treat everything that came as a string:



In summary

If you have one or more URLs that you want to display as text in a message instead of a thumbnail preview, just start the first line with a period (“period”) and they will appear as written.

Empty: Apple is very good at thinking things through.
brand: Yep. Just do not tell people about it. 😊
Empty: mhm

You may have your own reasons for wanting to display URLs “as written” instead of previewing links. If so, I hope this was helpful. And if you have any other tips or tricks for highjacking viewing methods with iMessage, let us all know in the comments section below!

Epilogue: How the sausage was made

If for some strange reason you want to see the conversation between my brother and me as it happened in real time, then go. It is presented in all its raw and random glory – spelling and grammatical errors included. We were far more excited than any sibling should ever be over something that is so trivial to most people.

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