Instagram’s decision to pull its photos from Twitter frustrates a lot of users.
My 13-year-old daughter surprised me the other day by asking whether she could reactivate her long dormant Twitter account. “Twitter’s the place to be, mom,” she said and proceeded to “prove” her point by showing me recent tweets from some of her friends.
While I don’t think my daughter is about to abandon her Facebook or Instagram accounts, her endorsement of Twitter is interesting. While we can all admit to spending far too much time on social networks, I would suggest that nobody posts updates, photos and ‘Likes’ like a teenage girl, and any wholesale move to embrace the world of 140 characters or less by this conspicuous demographic could have significant consequences.
Perhaps this new-found appeal of Twitter had something to do with last week’s decision by Instagram to disable photo integration with the micro-blogging site. As a result, Instagram photos are no longer appearing in tweets or user photo galleries. Of course, you can still tweet links to Instagram photos but that’s not the same – you lose the immediate impact of having the photo embedded in the tweet.
Twitter CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom was upfront about the reasons for the change: “We want to direct users to where the content lives originally,” he said. “Where do you go to interact with (an Instagram) image? We want that in be instagram.com because that’s a better user experience.”
Of course, Twitter isn’t completely innocent when it comes to the popular social networks making life difficult for one another. Earlier this year, Twitter cut off the “Find My Twitter Friends” feature in Instagram, figuring it was giving the upstart social network too big a helping hand in recruiting new members, particularly after Instagram had just been acquired by Facebook. There have also been reports of Twitter developing its own photo-filtering app, which would allow users to bypass Instagram completely.
Sadly, this insular approach is becoming far more prevalent among the leading social networks and tech companies. The pioneering spirit of an open Web and everyone collaborating to better serve the end-user has been replaced by an unrelenting fight for market share, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the bottom line.
Sometimes a unilateral approach can work, but sometimes it can backfire spectacularly, as it did with Apple’s misguided attempt to replace Google Maps with its own unproven software. Apple has done amazingly well by creating its own unique eco-system and not integrating with other platforms, but when that results in taking away access to popular services like YouTube or blocking apps in favor of inferior products, then Apple is making its own customer the loser.
Maybe Mr. Systrom should go back and read his mini bio, which appears in the About Us section of the Instagram web site: “Kevin has a passion for social products that enable people to communicate more easily…” Not allowing people to display their own photos wherever they want to on the Web hardly seems to be in keeping with that honorable objective.