Photos are the killer app of any social platform. So it's no wonder why the biggest players in the space are battling to win the attention of your eyeballs—and the advertising dollars they yield.
Today, the consequences of that war came to a head when photo-sharing service Instagram turned off the ability to share photos correctly on Twitter. To some, it may seem like a minor tweak—Instagram photos are now displayed cropped or off-kilter on Twitter's services—but it could have larger connotations for Twitter's competition with Google and Facebook, which owns Instagram, especially among users obsessed with filtering photos and adding the right tilt-shift effect. Although 140 characters has made Twitter a powerhouse in social, it's arguably the real-time sharing of outside content—links to news sites, say, or YouTube videos—that's made the platform addictive. And photos—especially those shared from Instagram—are crucial to that addiction.
It's the central reason why Facebook spent $1 billion to acquire Instagram, and why Google reportedly spent millions to acquire photo-editing service Snapseed. Indeed, before Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, Twitter reportedly tried to buy the startup. (Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey was an early investor in the service.) And after that failed, according to our extensive reporting on the subject, Twitter expressed interest in potentially acquiring Hipstamatic, another photo platform, though a deal never came to fruition.
At the LeWeb technology conference today, Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom tried to downplay any nefarious motives behind his decision to disable proper photo-displaying on Twitter. He claimed that Instagram and Twitter have a good relationship; indicated the decision had nothing to do with being acquired by Facebook; and apologized for any confusion the change may have caused.
Still, Systrom also indicated that Instagram is increasingly interested in gaining more control over its own content. The company recently launched a web presence, and Systrom said the company is staffing up teams to work on more web properties. It's a rather diplomatic way of stating the obvious: Instagram is incredibly popular on Twitter right now; Facebook and Instagram would prefer it to be incredibly popular on Facebook and Instagram.
"We’ve decided that right now, what makes sense, is to direct our users to the Instagram Web site," Systrom said, according to The New York Times. "Obviously things change as a company evolves."
"[This is the] correct thing for our business to do at this time," he reportedly said.
For Twitter users? That's another question.
[Image: Flickr user Michael Cory]