Yesterday Instagram decided to pull the plug on support for Twitter’s relatively new ‘cards’ feature.
Cards are essentially expanded Tweets containing links to partner websites. Within the expanded Tweets you can see content previews, in this case, previews of Instagram photos.
Cards work great for Twitter, because it means users can view Instagram photos without leaving Twitter’s ecosystem, which in turn means more engagement with Twitter.com and less engagement with Instagram.com. The reason this is so important is advertising.
If Twitter can keep users within the their domain, then they have a greater chance of making money from promoted Tweets, or other future advertising features the company develops. As soon as a user leaves Twitter.com, any potential opportunity for monetisation is lost. This is the reason why Twitter have been cracking down on third-party services, as they try to regain control of their audience and force all Twitter activity to take place within their domain, where they can make the most money.
Many people believe Instagram’s decision to disable support for cards was a form of retaliation after Twitter blocked API access for Instagram’s friend finding feature, but it seems pretty obvious that the reason for the change is so that Instagram can draw users to their domain, rather than just letting users consume Instagram content via Twitter.com.
Instagram is simply carrying out the same transformation as Twitter, routing their audience back to their domain for monetisation purposes. Now that Instagram have rolled out full-featured web profiles for their users, they have a reason to draw people to Instagram.com. They now have the potential to monetise via the new web profiles in much the same way as Twitter, and their owner Facebook, have been.
So with all that in mind, read Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom’s statement on the changes below.
“We are currently working on building the best experience for Instagram users. A handful of months ago, we supported Twitter cards because we had a minimal web presence. We've since launched several improvements to our website 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. We will continue to evaluate how to improve the experience with Twitter and Instagram photos. As has been the case, Instagram users will continue to be able to share to Twitter as they originally did before the Twitter Cards implementation.”
As Kevin notes, users will still be able to share Instagram photos on Twitter, they’ll just need to click through to Instagram.com for the full experience. it’s clear that their plan is to attract users into Instagram’s walled garden, just as Twitter have been trying to do, and just as Facebook have been since day one.
Unfortunately for us, the seamless experience between social networks will continue to degrade as monetisation becomes increasing more important than the overall user experience. But at the end of the day, concessions have to be made if we are to continue using these social networks for free.
Are you angry at the changes? Do you wish Instagram still supported cards? Or are you please to see Twitter get a taste of their own medicine? Please share your thoughts in the comments.