In a blog post late Monday, Twitter revealed a new feature that lets users apply vintage filters to their photos through the service's iOS and Android smartphone applications. The announcement, which comes just a few days after the popular photo-filtering app Instagram yanked the ability to view its photos within Twitter's preview cards, is yet another salvo fired in what's become an increasingly heated war between the two former partners.
Starting today, Twitter users can apply one of eight filters — which range from "black & white" to "vintage" — to their images to add, in Twitter's words, "a new look and feel to your photos." Users can also pinch-to-zoom to focus attention on a photo's specific area, as well as auto-enhance an image to improve light balance and make colors pop.
So, what's Twitter's aim here? Well, Instagram was "the undisputed leader when it comes to mobile photo filters and sharing," says Daniel Terdimen at CNET. "To be sure, Instagram has a massive lead, and a very passionate community." Twitter, however, "has a nine-figure user base, and now that it is offering filters — albeit just eight, while Instagram has 18 free filters — it can begin to chip away at its competitor's lead."
Indeed, the addition of in-app filters "is great for Twitter users who didn't like the extra step of launching Instagram or another photo editing app to spruce up images," says Heather Kelly at CNN. It might not make up for the "larger loss of cross-service functionality," but at this point, the split was inevitable.
The thing is, what made Instagram such a success in the first place is that the service does one thing (snapping and scrolling through photos on your phone) better than anyone else. The same can be said for Twitter (short-burst communication to a mass audience). But when a social media company tries to ape the successes of its competitors and former allies — well, things get messy.
Myspace, for example, revealed a new redesign this past week that strangely combines elements from Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. And guess what? It looks nice, says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo, but "it goes too many directions at once."
In the end, that's why these social-media photo wars are bad news for you, the user. You probably won't be well-served by Twitter doing its best Instagram imitation. The copycat will never live up to the original. All users really want are services delivering on what they do best.
Check out how Twitter's new photo filters work here: