Instagram is smart, but evil

01:08, Dec 11 2012

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. Really the drama 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, NY Times links, Tumblr links, a few other things, and, until recently, Instagram photos. While this is a minor annoyance on, it is MUCH more annoying on mobile.

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. Hell, by the time this blog goes out they might be live, the pace this thing is moving. This means when uploading photos to Twitter the usual way, through their official apps or websites or your OS even, 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 really doubt what Twitter hurries out will look as good.

It's a gamble by Instagram, but I think a smart one. There aren't many people who care enough (or understand) Twitter cards enough to drop a social network they have put their time and photos into. The idea is more people are going to sign up for Instagram if they are on, 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 y'all think the move was necessary, or are Instagram being unreasonable?

Photo: Getty Images


UPDATE: Here the filters are, that was fast. There is a very real possibility this works the other way round, and Instagram were simply responding to the threat of filters. Even if they are on the defensive, this move still seems somewhat malicious. Twitter adding a feature similiar to another services is bad, but not as bad as removing a feature users have gotten used to, in my opinion.

Videogame developer Valve [Steam, Portal, Half Life] are definitely building a "console-like PC for the living room".  I don't really play games any more, but I would break through a brick wall with a toothpick if you told me Half Life 3 was on the other side. It's a daring move, creating a new PC-based console this late in the game, but if anyone can do it, Valve can. Just show me where to cram my money.

Apple Maps is leaving people stranded in the wilderness. Google do complex databases a whole lot better than Apple, huh.

"When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years." - Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaking the truth. Even if Apple do build an amazing TV, however, it will probably be terrible here for a long while, with TV companies hogging all the exclusive contracts.

Ryan Singer has an excellent piece on the need for an easy way to publish to tablets. Currently only the big players can really do it, much like blogging before Movable Type.

iTunes 11 is both terrible and great. The next up feature is awesome and it sometimes looks cool, but it is slower (especially the search) and the lack of sidebar album artwork causes me a whole lot of distress. I really need to quit iTunes for good, but streaming still isn't quite there for me.

Email Henry or follow him on Twitter.