User Photos Are Collateral Damage in Instagram-Twitter Fight
Instagram shut off integration with Twitter's photo-posting feature Wednesday, the latest strike in the companies' growing clash. Since its April purchase by Facebook, the enmity has intensified. "Facebook, now calling the shots, says 'Walk away from the Twitter relationship, you have us now,'" said Lon Safko, social media expert at Extreme Digital Marketing.
12/05/12 12:53 PM PT
"A handful of months ago we supported Twitter Cards because we had a minimal Web presence," Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom said at the Le Web conference in Paris. "We've since launched several improvements to our website that allow users to directly engage with Instagram content through likes, comments, and hashtags, and now we believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives."
Slapping Each Other Silly
Trouble between the two has built following the purchase of Instagram by Facebook in April. Facebook's relationship with Twitter is already uneasy as both companies battle for customers in the mobile space.
In July, Twitter shut Instagram out of its Find Your Friends feature with restrictions on its application programming interface.
In early November, reports surfaced that Twitter planned to launch a range of photo filters that would let users add to pictures uploaded to the company's website. That raised questions about whether the move might blunt Instagram's growth.
That news was followed a week later by Facebook launching an update to its iOS app that includes Instagram-style photo filters.
It's Only Business
Instagram's move is the logical outcome of its purchase by Facebook in April, Lon Safko, social media expert at Extreme Digital Marketing, told TechNewsWorld.
"Facebook, Google and Apple are going to systematically look at other social networks' features, benefits and membership draw and incorporate those features into their platforms," Safko explained. "We're talking about more than [US]$25 billion at stake here."
Examples are Google "knocking off Skype with Google Hangouts and Facebook incorporating a Twitter-type chat," Safko continued. "If a feature is appealing on one platform, the strategy is to amass as many of those features as possible to draw new membership and retain current members, because membership means eyes, eyes means advertising, advertising means revenue."
Facebook "has to develop new revenue streams and a way to bolster membership with the pressure it's feeling from Wall Street," Safko contended.
Instagram is acting as a proxy for Facebook in this case. "Twitter filters Instagram, Instagram sells to Facebook, Facebook, now calling the shots, says 'Walk away from the Twitter relationship, you have us now,'" Safko speculated.
Instagram and Twitter did not respond to our requests for further details.
Will Instagram Still Friend Twitter?
Instagram will continue to evaluate how to improve users' photo experience on Twitter, Systrom said. Instagram users will be able to share content over Twitter as they did prior to the implementation of Twitter cards.
Whether the relationship between the two will continue is open to question.
"Facebook could be adopting a take-no-prisoners strategy," Safko opined. The key factor now is the value of Instagram's relationship with Twitter now that it's part of Facebook.
"Twitter is just an old high-school sweetheart that's getting in the way," Safko said. "The new wife may be saying 'cut the ties.'"
However, Instagram wouldn't be wise to cut off Twitter entirely, Safko said. "Twitter had 500 million users as of June, and that's a lot of brand engagement." Further, Facebook has to be careful about whether it gives priority to content from Instagram over that from Twitter because "playing favorites is another way of saying censoring, and you'll lose all credibility."
Twitter should also seek ways to continue its relationship with Facebook and Instagram, and perhaps might have to rethink building its own photo filters, Safko suggested. "They need to sit down together and strategize, either to work together and how that three-way relationship will work, or to part ways." But Twitter won't seek a split "if they are smart."