Why Instagram Wins Its Rap Battle With Twitter

In the most shocking coincidence in all tech history, Twitter updated its apps with its rumored photo filters on the same day that Instagram 3.2 came out with an improved camera and new filters. This is really boring news. There is only one thing that's interesting about the Blurry Photo War, and this is as good a time as any to mention it.

Twitter and Instagram have been fighting. Instagram sold to Facebook instead of Twitter, so Twitter cut off Instagram's access to Twitter followers, so Instagram cut off photo sharing in Twitter Cards, so Twitter partnered up with Aviary and put photo filters in its own apps. This is terrible consumer tech drudgery that doesn't help anyone. But there is still one grain of interesting social media theory left.

There is one very good reason to keep using Instagram instead of (or in addition to) Twitter's camera. Twitter is a general-interest place. People on Twitter are willing to listen to whatever's happening out in the world right now. Some of them might not care about your photos at all.

Because Instagram has a singular focus on photos, it's a more appreciative environment for sharing them. The reason it's still so popular despite the ascendance of Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ is because of this focus. All those social networks are for broader purposes than just posting photos. People use them for all kinds of things. Instagram is just for Instagram fans.

It has been said that Flickr should have been Instagram. It was the most beloved photo-driven social network before the mobile age, and it got beaten. 500px is on the rise as a social network for eye-popping pro photographers. But Instagram is a jewel. Even though Facebook bought it and built its own iOS camera app with filters and all, it hasn't touched a hair on Instagram's head. Twitter will surely get some play out of its photo filters, but for people who actually care about sharing photos, Instagram is still the place to be.

Today's Instagram update adds a new filter and a better shooting mode. It improves the depth of field rendering for tilt shift, and it speeds up the app. Instagram has always made the case for a photo-only social network, and Twitter couldn't and shouldn't replace that.