Home Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Millions of photo links across Twitter will soon succumb to linkrot. The service Twitpic, once a primary avenue for posting images to the microblogging service, is shutting down.

So get ready to export all your photos, because as of September 25, they’ll be gone for good.

In a blog post, Twitpic said it is winding down because of pressure from Twitter over its name. It claims Twitter demanded it drop its application to trademark the Twitpic name, originally filed in 2009. If it didn’t, Twitter allegedly threatened a death sentence of sorts. Technically, it would have cut off Twitpic’s access to the application programming interface (see our API explainer) that lets users post links to Twitpic images directly on Twitter. 

See also: Twitter Kills The API Whitelist: What It Means For Developers And Innovation

“Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours,” Twitpic founder Noah Everett wrote. So the company decided to close down instead.

Twitpic hasn’t provided a way to export photos yet, but Everett said the option will be available within the next few days.

The Mark, Not The Name

Twitter says Twitpic was free to continue using its name, but defended its trademark request as necessary to protect its brand. As a Twitter spokesperson put it in a statement emailed by the company:

We’re sad to see Twitpic is shutting down. We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand.

One possibility for Twitter’s intransigence on this point: If Twitpic won a trademark on its name, that might have set a precedent for other companies to similarly claim other variations on names starting with “Twit” name. That would obviously be an undesirable outcome from Twitter’s perspective.

So why didn’t Twitpic just keep the name and drop the trademark suit? A company’s unique identity is tied to their brand, and by trademarking a name, it ensures no one else can use it. Had Twitpic caved on this point, there wouldn’t have been anything to stop other companies from using its name in potentially unwelcome ways.

Twitpic could have also chosen to rename itself. Considering Twitter roadblocked the initial trademark attempt, though, it likely would have run into trouble with any other name bearing a resembance to “Twitter” as well.

Twitter-Centric Photo Sharing Apps Are Basically Pointless, Anyway

There may be another reason Twitpic chose to throw in the towel—namely, the fact that its service was apparently dwindling in popularity as Twitter itself shouldered it aside.

Twitpic and similar services such as yFrog rose to prominence five or so years ago by giving users a way to share photos directly on Twitter. But when Twitter dropped support for third-party photo sharing applications in 2012, and then created its own Instagram-like filters for images, third-party applications fell by the wayside.

Until recently, Twitpic remained the best service for uploading animated GIFs to share with friends, as Twitter didn’t support them. Then Twitter unveiled in-line GIF support, and Twitpic’s best argument for sticking around disappeared.

Twitpic might not have the resources to battle with Twitter over trademark issues, but it also may have just resigned itself to the inevitable: Twitter has rounded out its features to the point that users don’t need third-party photo services.

Lead image by Homard.net

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