Back in 2021, we had been using the smart links feature in Confluence to embed YouTube videos in our documentation. What we didn't realise was that smart links did not actually work for anonymous (i.e. not logged in) users.
This was worse than useless for us, so we decided to do something about it.
Closing a gap in native Confluence functionality
We quickly released YouTube in Confluence to work around this problem and added it to Atlassian Marketplace as a free app.
Here's the synopsis video from the release, in 2021:
The key thing was to override the smart links behaviour so that the macro from our app was added rather than the smart link.
It also came with support for:
- Individual videos
- Embed URLs
- Short links
- Mobile video URLs
- Custom video start times
- "Full screen" button to maximise the video to the size of your browser
This app was a simple and free workaround for users who were aware of CONFCLOUD-68023 and required an immediate fix.
Does the macro still meet our needs in 2023?
Fast-forward to 2023 and we have migrated our documentation to Scroll Viewport. Our new problem is that Scroll Viewport does not support YouTube in Confluence, so we now have a blank space where the video should be.
One solution would be to allow Scroll Viewport to support our macro, but instead we took another look at smart links.
Two years is a long time in SaaS software, and in that time smart links have been fixed to work for anonymous users. It also turns out that Scroll Viewport supports YouTube embeds using the smart links feature in Confluence.
The final version
In July 2023, we released the final version of YouTube in Confluence. It removed the override for smart links, meaning that whenever you paste a YouTube URL into the Confluence editor, you get a native Confluence smart link, which can be configured to be a video embed.
This allows us to do 2 things:
- Paste in YouTube videos as smart links to replace all our macro instances and have the videos rendered in Scroll Viewport.
- Consider the real possibility of retiring an app which really should not have existed in the first place
We're discontinuing this app as the native functionality in Confluence has finally caught up.
When we launched this app, smart links were not good, but things have improved. We think it's time everyone moved to the native smart links functionality.
We removed the autocomplete functionality a while back so that pasting a new YouTube link would revert to native smart links.
This app is not going away, so existing YouTube videos in pages will still work, but we really recommend converting all uses of this macro to use the native smart links functionality. It actually is smart now.
We will continue to host the app for at least a year and maybe a lot longer, if not longer as it's codebase is bundled into our BI Dashboards in Confluence app, which is not going anywhere.