Why In The World Should Instagram Allow Twitter To Scrape Its Photos?

instagram founder kevin systrom
Let me get this straight. All Instagram has is photos. And you want me to give them to you for…free?

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It used to be that when an Instagram user took a photo and then shared it with Twitter, that photo would show up in the Twitter user’s tweet on Twitter.com and Twitter’s various apps.Then, last week, Instagram crippled this feature, only allowing Twitter to display cropped photos.

Today, Instagram seems to have turned this feature off. 

(Intagram users can still share their photos to Twitter, but now other users have to click a link in a tweet to see the photo.)

Some users are whining about the change.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington’s post on the topic is headlined: “They Screwed Us. Right Before They Screwed Us Again. #poohead.”

But why in the world should Instagram allow Twitter to scrape its photos?

Imagine if the New York Times were to allow Twitter to scrape its entire articles and republish them in Twitter apps. 

That’d be nuts!

The only way the Times would do it is if Twitter were paying it.

That’s how cable works, after all.

To get ESPN channels on its distribution platforms, Time Warner Cable pays Disney $4.69 per cable subscriber, per month.

Maybe what we’re witnessing in this fight between Twitter and Instagram is a first step toward that kind of cable model.

Perhaps big, beloved Web brands like YouTube, the Times, and Instagram will eventually agree to share all of their content inside tweets in Twitter apps for small, per user carriage fees.

Of course, Twitter will only be able to pay content brands like YouTube, the Times, and Instagram if it is making money itself.

So far it’s not. Not really. (A few hundred million dollars in revenue.)

So, maybe what Twitter will eventually do is turn around and charge the Internet Service Providers (AT&T/Verizon/Time Warner) its own carriage fee. 

And then that fee would get passed onto users in a big bundled package. 

Just like cable. Which everyone ALSO loves to whine about. (Even though they keep paying $150/month for it.)