Instagram Is Sorry, But It Has To Make Twitter Worse

Instagram disabled Twitter Cards. Now, when you click an Instagram link from Twitter, you might see a cropped, weird looking preview instead of the whole picture. That's because Instagram wants to just send you straight to its website, but Twitter won't let it, so now you have to click twice. Isn't Web 2.0 just the best?

Do you know what Twitter Cards are? I don't blame you. Here's the gist: When you view a tweet on Twitter's official apps or site, and it contains a link to a photo or article or other piece of media, the publisher can build a little preview that displays right on Twitter, so the person clicking it doesn't have to leave Twitter and go to the original. Why would publishers want that? I don't know.

As we can now see with Instagram, the alternative to building nice-looking Twitter Cards is a vastly crappier, "pre-Cards" version of a similar experience. On the desktop version, you can carefully click the URL and go straight to Instagram.com, but not on mobile. So you either build Twitter Cards, and the user doesn't click through to your site, or you look crappy on Twitter, and the user gets pissed off for having to click another time.

At LeWeb on Wednesday Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom apologized to users, acknowledging that the changes are "really confusing," but explaining that this is "the correct thing for our business to do at this time."

And it is. For Instagram users, of whom there are many, we want to click through to Instagram.com so we can like or follow someone on Instagram. This Twitter crap is an obstacle. Twitter has every right to create that obstacle and keep people on its property, but that doesn't mean it's "fun" or "delightful" or one of those other Web 2.0 words.

Twitter has been messing with Instagram for months. It cut off the ability for Instagram users to find their Twitter friends on the service in July. Last month, the New York Times reported that Twitter is building its own Instagram-style filters. Systrom has to insist otherwise on stage, of course, but this spat has been going on for a while. In a stupid, juvenile way, Instagram is justified in striking back.

But we actual Web-using humans do not care about this fight. We don't care about companies fighting. We want our things to work well and be fun. In a less cynical world, we could have a better experience for sharing photos of our lives with each other. I should get over that, though.

This kind of slap-fighting between companies is what we get for paying for these communication services by letting them mine our eyeballs. It's the status quo. If we don't like it, we could try paying for it and see how that goes.

UPDATE: 12:26 p.m.: This article has been corrected to clarify Twitter's functionality. Initially, it reported that you can't click straight through to Instagram.com from a tweet. On mobile, this is true. On the desktop Web, however, you can click the URL and go directly to Instagram.com, but clicking elsewhere on the tweet still expands the image in line.