Twitter Remakes Itself In Instagram's Image

Dec 11, 2012 (09:12 AM EST)

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Twitter on Tuesday began its transformation from a microblogging service into a full-fledged social network when it added native photo editing capabilities, including the ability to alter images with predefined filters.

"Starting today, you’ll be able to edit and refine your photos, right from Twitter," explained Twitter senior designer Coleen Baik in a blog post. "The latest versions of Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android introduce a few new ways to enhance the images you tweet."

Twitter added the ability to post photos with text-based tweets back in June 2011. A year later, it added the ability to expand tweets containing links to partner websites, so linked images can be viewed.

Image sharing is a major focus among social networks because users tend to want to preserve their images and doing so entails an ongoing business relationship and potential storage fees. Maintaining a record of tweeted text doesn't seem to have the same appeal.

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The addition of native photo filters and editing follows a falling-out between Twitter and Instagram, the popular image sharing service acquired by Facebook earlier this year. Instagram last week disabled its Twitter cards integration, making Instagram pictures posted to Twitter appear improperly cropped. The company subsequently eliminated the ability to view Instagram pictures on Twitter at all.

Having evidently lost its appetite for unfettered social sharing under its new owner, Instagram has taken steps to keep its users and images to itself. And Twitter is pursuing a similar strategy. Earlier this year, it changed its APIs to limit how third-party services can interact with the Twitter platform, to the dismay of developers. It removed the "Find Twitter Friends" feature -- through which users of other services could import Twitter contacts -- from Instagram in July and from Tumblr in August.

The major consumer-oriented Internet platform companies are all following in the footsteps of Apple toward vertical integration. They appear to want to own or control every service available on their platform. Anything less could offer a gap through which user loyalty and data might escape.

Twitter hasn't gone completely vertical yet: It is relying on online photo editing service Aviary for its filters and effects. That's the sort of partnership that might just turn into an acquisition as Twitter prepares to go public, if only to keep a competitor from buying Aviary first.

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