Spin ... Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom. Photo: Reuters
If you haven't been following it (I honestly don't blame you) there has been a little drama between Twitter and Instagram over the past week. The drama really started in July, when Twitter turned off the ability for Instagram users to find Twitter friends already on Instagram, but it really heated up in the past week, with Instagram first breaking and now removing the ability for Instagram photos to show up on "Twitter cards", essentially removing themselves from your Twitter stream.
Twitter cards are something everyone on Twitter uses but not many talk about. When you expand a tweet and some of the media shows up on Twitter itself, whether in an app or the website — that is a Twitter card. They work for any pictures uploaded via Twitter itself, news links, Tumblr links, and, until recently, Instagram photos. While this is a minor annoyance on Twitter.com, it is MUCH more annoying on the mobile app.
The official line from Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom is that their web service is a better experience for users, but that is BS. Maybe soon, but currently popping out the official Twitter app so my browser can load up a photo is in no way a better experience. It's a power grab, which is fine, I guess — Twitter holds a lot of power over Instagram, something Instagram owner Facebook must hate, and Instagram is a for-profit subsidiary.
Twitter is responding rapidly, with filters for their own service on the way. By the time this blog goes out they might be live, given the pace at which this thing is moving. This means when uploading photos to Twitter the usual way, through their official apps or websites or even your operating system, you could apply Instagram-like filters to your photos.
This won't work. Instagram users aren't on Instagram for the filters. I Instagram five or six photos a week and I hate most of the filters. Instagram is a sparse and fun photo-only social network, and that is why people love it. Twitter is a social network too, of course, but one of a completely different kind — nobody wants their entire Twitter account to be photos, and I only follow 30 or so Instagram accounts, keeping it to people I DEFINITELY want to see photos from. Plus, Instagram's filters are actually somewhat sophisticated and developed, I doubt that what Twitter hurries out will look as good.
It's a gamble by Instagram, but I think it's a smart one. There aren't many people who care (or understand) Twitter cards enough to drop a social network they have put their time and photos into. The idea is that people are going to sign up for Instagram if they are on instagram.com, instead of just viewing the photo through Twitter, and that seems a pretty solid assumption. It takes power away from Twitter and is unlikely to lose more than a handful of users.
Smart doesn't mean right. Instagram is playing with our good faith, our faith that features that were present when we started to use it would remain present. It's a replay of Apple Maps — the move makes total sense, but it's a spit in the face of users. Sure, Apple may have fired a guy because of Apple Maps, but the iPhone 5 is still ridiculously popular, as is Instagram.
Do you think the move was necessary, or are Instagram acting unreasonably?
Henry Cooke is a 20-year-old student/nerd who lives and breathes the internet — which he believes is mankind's crowning achievement. He blogs about the trends and technologies of the net, translating the babble and buzzwords so they make sense to regular folk. Email Henry or follow him on Twitter.