Why is Instagram waving goodbye to Twitter integration?


By Matthew Shaer / December 5, 2012

Until relatively recently, Instagram was fully integrated with Twitter – you'd snap a picture using the Instagram app, and you could embed the image directly into a tweet. No longer. Beginning this week, Instagram has axed support for "Twitter cards," a design feature that makes it easier for users to slot multimedia content onto their timelines. For all practical purposes, that means that Instagram photos on Twitter can look a little... funky. 

"Users are experiencing issues with viewing Instagram photos on Twitter. Issues include cropped images," reps for Twitter acknowledged today. "This is due to Instagram disabling its Twitter cards integration, and as a result, photos are being displayed using a pre-cards experience. So, when users click on Tweets with an Instagram link, photos appear cropped." 

What kind of game is Instagram playing, exactly? Well, in a statement to the Washington Post, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom confirmed that Instagram had disabled Twitter card support, and said that Instagram would continue to "evaluate how to improve the experience with Twitter and Instagram photos." 

"A handful of months ago, we supported Twitter cards because we had a minimal Web presence," Mr. Systrom continued. "We’ve since launched several improvements to our Web site that allow users to directly engage with Instagram content through likes, comments, hashtags, and now we believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives." 

No more embedding, in other words. You can still link to a Instagram photo from Twitter, but the photo won't actually live inside the tweet. 

Over at CNET, Ben Parr is wagering the whole thing comes down to cold, hard cash. 

"Instagram is a business, and at some point it has to make money," Parr writes. "In order to generate revenue, most likely from some type of innovative, image-based advertising network that must be bouncing around in Systrom's head, it has to control the page views and control the user experience. It's the exact same reason why Twitter has been throttling some of its most popular third-party apps – it doesn't control the user experience on those apps, and thus it can't control how ads look and feel." 

Of course, there's also the not-so-small matter of competition: Facebook recently acquired Instagram for $1 billion. Facebook and Twitter are rivals. As Austin Carr of Fast Company writes, "Instagram is incredibly popular on Twitter right now; Facebook and Instagram would prefer it to be incredibly popular on Facebook and Instagram." 

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