A lot has been said already about how stupid Twitter is to bite the hand that tweeted them into fame. People are all on about how Facebook’s draconian actions will hurt them. Now Instagram is in on the restriction game. There are business models for actions like this, and we’ve seen them time and again. People think the only way to keep their user base (i.e. their revenue) is to stop the users from integrating with the other tools.
Look, none of us use a product because they limit us, or because they force us to. While the monetary loss and software hassle of switching to a PC would hurt me, the reason I use a Mac is not because they make it impossible to switch, but because they make me not want to. It’s a part of a psychological gambit, making it easy to do what I want, and if I really wanted, easy to walk away. But what neither Apple nor Microsoft does is attempt to lock me in to their way forever.
Now some of you might argue that’s not true, but look at the US phone system. AT&T and Verizon and all the other traditional companies lock us into their systems. We can’t leave without paying exhorbinant fees. With Apple and Microsoft, the setup fee was my choice, and I don’t pay ongoing prices to use their service, though I can in some cases.
When I see things like Instagram and Twitter having a slap-fight, to the point that Twitter decided to remove Instagram’s embedding in Twitter, I wanted to kick them both. Twitter is going to hurt itself more and more by biting the hands that feed them (which we already knew about when they decided people making their own Twitter tools was bad). Instagram is following the trend, and that doesn’t help at all. What they’re doing is generating anti-social behavior, which is to say that they’re making it hard to be social.
These are social media outlets, and it’s almost to the point where they’re saying ‘You can drive our car, but it only uses gasoline from these vendors.’ We would cry foul and sic the lawyers on them for that. In fact, we did. Remember when Microsoft made it near impossible to run other browsers by tightly integrating IE with their OS? Look at how well that worked out. Sidebar: I don’t think Apple limiting the default browser on iOS devices is the same thing. Unlike Microsoft, they own both hardware and software, so it’s more like saying ‘You can’t put a Fiat engine in your Mini Coop.’ I do think they should allow it, but it’s not the same as the gasoline analogy. Hair splitting, I know. Don’t think I like that I can’t set Chrome as my default browser on my iPad, it really annoys me.
One of the driving points I love about open source is that we all work together to make things better. With a few notable exceptions, we really try hard to be cooperative, because we know that one group, alone, can’t do everything. This is why I’m often an evangelist for people to contribute, I know that we need to work together in all things. My chosen flag is, right now, Open Source.
For some reason this is lost on people when they start looking to monetize their products. And it’s not just products like Twitter that do this stupid thing. Right away, everyone’s an enemy. Recently, Carrie Dils ran into this when her presentation at a WordPress Meetup was rejected. Carrie correctly pointed out, she’s not your competition. (I’m very confident this will be addressed in the meetup world, and I know this is not the kind of behavior anyone encourages or endorsees.) Except in a way, she totally is my competition. Just not the way that guy seemed to think of it.
That bizarre situation points out the absurdity in all this. The world is not a zero-sum game. You’ll never have all the money, all the products, all the clients, or all the people. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to have as many as you can manage, but it means you don’t need to attack the other guy. Having a rival, having competition, is good. Every other forum moderator is better than I am at something. Even if it’s just quilting, or as weird as Microsoft servers, the crux of the issue is that competition can be a good thing, and the way to ‘win’ is not to smear the other guy or block them from sharing your client base, but to offer what the other guys doesn’t have.
Look back at Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is for sharing 140 characters of words. Instagram is for sharing retro photos. So what does Instagram have to gain by blocking people from being able to show photos in Twitter? Well there is a practical point here, and it’s one I tout: Own your own data. After all, I don’t allow hotlinking of my images on other sites specifically because I want people to come here for content (and it’s bandwidth theft, which I hate), but also I don’t like when people steal my content without asking and present it as their own. A large part of owning my own data is also owning where it lives. So while I use Instagram and Twitter (and Facebook), anything of merit that isn’t just casual chatter ends up on one of my own sites.
Unlike Instagram, I will happily embed small version of my content (excerpts) on any social media site I care to use. Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus all allow me to put a link, or a link and a phrase, that shows a teaser of my blog content. This drives traffic back to me, which increases my presence, and nets me what I want. Instagram could have done this, and permitted embedding like that on a small scale (click to see bigger, click to leave comment) on Twitter and anywhere else, which would probably help them.(Wouldn’t it be cool if we could code our own sites to let Twitter embed some media from them too? Sadly, they won’t let us because some people would use it for Goatse.cx (DO NOT VISIT)) Instead, they put up a wall to make people click a link and go through. This is why WordPress lets you embed media on your site from other sources. They get it.
I wish those other guys did. I just want to play in the park with everyone.