Instagram Yanks Its Photos from Twitter Cards

If you use Twitter, and follow lots of people who post photos from Instagram, you may notice that those photos don't look quite right.

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

If you use Twitter, and follow lots of people who post photos from Instagram, you may notice that those photos don’t look quite right.

That’s because Instagram has decided to pull its support for Twitter Cards, a tool that can embed photos, videos or text into tweets with links in them. Without the use of Twitter Cards, Instagram photos may appear cropped, and the only way you can see the full photo is by clicking a link to Instagram’s website.

To be clear, you can still post an image from Instagram to Twitter, it just won’t look right unless your followers view it directly on Instagram’s website.  (My actual experience varied. With a test image, Twitter’s website showed the full photo. Twitter for iPhone showed a cropped photo, while Twitter for Android only showed the link, with no photo preview at all.)

As you may suspect, the decision is all about business. Instagram expanded to the web in November, after growing its network solely through its popular iPhone and Android apps. Now that the website’s there, Instagram would prefer that you visit it. Or as Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom put it, the company wants people to be “where their content lives originally,” The Verge reports. He denied that the move has anything to do with Instagram being acquired by Facebook, or with Twitter’s recent decision to block Instagram users from finding new friends based on their Twitter contacts.

Of course, Systrom said the move will be better for users in the long run. What he didn’t say outright, but seems to be the case, is that Instagram wants to control the flow of user data and maintain its chances of making money through its website down the line.

Tempting as it might be to begrudge Instagram, this is pretty much what Twitter itself has been doing over the last year, as it cracks down on third-party Twitter clients. Apps like TweetBot and Tweetro have felt the squeeze of Twitter’s newfound “token” limits, which cap the number of users these services can have. As a result, these apps charge a higher price than they would have otherwise, and more people are encouraged to use Twitter’s own apps instead. That’s the point; Twitter gets more control over the user experience–including the advertisements that are now popping up in users’ timelines.

Bad for users? Certainly. But this is the inevitable outcome when free web services without business models get huge and need to start thinking about making money.

If that makes you angry, maybe this awesome video making fun of Instagram users will cheer you up. Or, if you’re feeling crafty and want to employ a workaround, Circa’s Daniel Bentley suggests using the web service IFTTT to automatically post Instagram photos as native Twitter images, so they’ll appear in full.

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