Mike Isaac

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Instagram Gives Twitter the Bird

The cards are on the table, and it’s getting ugly.

From now on, you may happen to notice Instagram photos appearing oddly on Twitter. Some images may appear cropped or somewhat off. This is not a bug. It’s because Instagram doesn’t want to play nice with Twitter anymore.

In a post to Twitter’s status blog on Wednesday morning, the company notified users that Instagram has disabled its integration with Twitter Cards, the technology Twitter uses to display multimedia inside of tweets on the service.

In practice, Instagram photos will look bad on Twitter. But in effect, it’s Instagram giving Twitter the middle finger, a clear sign of the photo-sharing service making plain that it no longer wants Twitter to ride on the successful coattails of the millions of photos Instagram hosts on its service every single day.

“We want to direct users to where the content lives originally,” Instagram chief Kevin Systrom said at the LeWeb conference on Wednesday in Paris. “Where do you go to interact with [an Instagram] image? We want that to be instagram.com because that’s a better user experience.”

The move comes only weeks after Instagram had upped its Web presence, displaying user photos fully on an Instagram Web site, as well as inside the mobile app. It also happens to occur a few months after the close of Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook, one of Twitter’s largest competitors.

Twitter has no doubt benefitted from Instagram’s images appearing inside of its feed. In September, AllThingsD reported that Instagram pictures are actually seeing more engagement from users than plain tweets. Populating Instagram photos to the Twitter stream has only helped bring those photo-loving users back to Twitter, over and over.

But now that Instagram is no longer an island and is a part of Facebook, Systrom and company have incentive to play hardball. Including seeking vindication for Twitter pulling a similar move over the summer, when Twitter cut off an important “find my Twitter friends” feature on Instagram.

Twitter has begun to prepare itself for this day. As Nick Bilton of the New York Times first reported, Twitter is working on introducing its own set of photo filters, so that Twitter users can take pictures from inside the app and apply filters to them, negating the need to use another app like Instagram. I’ve verified this project through my own sources — it’s coming. (And take a look at some recent tweets from Jack Dorsey, who seems to be applying black-and-white filters to his own photos without the aid of an outside app.)

It’s getting nasty. Two companies that once loved one another are now showing their true colors and feelings against one another. But after the Facebook acquisition, we had to have seen it coming.

“Things change as a company evolves,” Systrom said at LeWeb. “I don’t think we ever said nothing would change.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald