Photos from Instagram, the red-hot startup acquired by Facebook earlier this year, are no longer displaying correctly on Twitter. It’s the latest episode in the ongoing breakup of two companies that once came close to tying their fates together forever. With apologies to Taylor Swift, here’s a chronicle of the true-love-gone-bad story of Twitter and Instagram.
Instagram launched in October 2010. Jack Dorsey, avid photographer and a founder of Twitter, was one of Instagram’s original investors.
In April of 2012, after the site had experienced explosive growth, Instagram simultaneously received $50 million in new investment and an acquisition offer from Twitter in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. Rumor has it that Dorsey was involved in all aspects of the offer from Twitter, whose leadership agreed that Instagram was highly compatible with their business.
Within days, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom approached Facebook with the Twitter offer in hand, using it as leverage to get an even higher valuation for his company. Within 48 hours, the deal was done. In a shotgun wedding, Facebook acquired Instagram for $715 million in cash and stock.
That’s when things started to get ugly between Instagram and Twitter.
By July 2012, Twitter had blocked Instagram from accessing data about friend connections on Twitter. This meant Instagram users could no longer automatically connect with their Twitter friends when first accessing the Instagram app. Twitter wouldn’t say why it changed its policy toward Instagram, but the obvious answer is sour grapes over the Facebook acquisition—and the realization that Instagram was now part of Twitter’s biggest competitor.
They say the best revenge is living well, and by September, Instagram had more users on mobile than Twitter, 7.3 million to 6.9 million.
In October, despite being blocked by Twitter, Instagram extended an olive branch by figuring out how to use the company’s own user database to allow users to share Instagram images on Twitter.
Which brings us to today, Dec. 5: Instagram dropped support for Twitter “cards,” which allow Instagram images to be viewed easily on Twitter. As a result, Instagram images can still be viewed on Twitter, but they are often stretched or off-center.
In the very latest development, Instagram CEO Systrom just said at the Le Web conference in Paris that, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, “we have a really good relationship with Twitter.” Yet he also confirmed that Instagram’s dropping of Twitter cards was deliberate, and intended to drive users to the new web client for Instagram.
So which is it, Systrom? Are Instagram and Twitter star-crossed lovers, or two companies that can’t just quit each other? It’s like a bad high school romance….