Instagram, a photo-sharing social network for iOS and Android smartphone owners, originally made its images available through Twitter’s Card feature, which displays media right in the Twitter timeline. Unfortunately, Twitter users began to notice earlier today that Instagram photos were no longer showing up in Twitter cards, and Instagram has indeed confirmed that it has disabled Twitter Card support for photos posted to its service. At this time, Instagram images do still show up on Twitter inside expanded tweets, but many reports suggest that these photos are sometimes cropped or aligned incorrectly, forcing the user to visit the Instagram website to see the full image.
Suffice to say, this is not a win for the user.
Twitter has made some nice inroads with its Twitter Card feature, roping in a number of content providers and showing media directly inside the timeline. For a service that started out allowing only 140 text characters, Twitter Cards put Twitter more on par with a service like Tumbr, in terms of its support for rich media. Of course, Instagram recently unveiled Web profiles, and it wants to do more to drive users to the Instagram website, where it can make a play for monetization at some point. Being owned by Facebook, viewed by many as a competitor to Twitter, certainly complicates the issue, as well.
I can’t say I agree with the move. Twitter made the timeline experience easier for its users by including media right in the stream. By supporting this feature initially, Instagram undoubtedly got its images in front of a lot of users who might not have seen them otherwise. Now, a user will have to expand a tweet or click on a link, and when clicking on the link opens an external website, it does the user a disservice. No one likes to be taken away from the app they’re using if it’s not absolutely necessary, and Instagram will now start forcing users to do just that.
My fear with a move like this is that other providers will follow suit, and we’ll no longer be viewing photos, listening to songs, or watching YouTube videos right in our Twitter streams. That was the old way of doing things. The progress made by Twitter, plus content made available by great third-party providers, both combine now to benefit the user by helping that user stay in one place and consume content through Twitter more quickly. This move by Instagram feels like a step backward, and I hope it’s one the company reconsiders.