One of the selling points of Windows Phone is the tight social integration and ability to pull photos from Facebook into the built-in photo application. Microsoft mimicked this same functionality in Windows 8, but it appears the company is removing some of it for Windows 8.1. Although the photos app in Windows 8.1 has been improved with editing functionality, the app has dropped Facebook and Flickr integration alongside the removal of support for images on network storage.
In a posting to Microsoft's community forums, a spokesperson explains that the software maker introduced the Facebook and Flickr integration originally in Windows 8 as very few apps would initially be available. "Now there are many apps in the store that offer ways to view photos on other services," explains the Microsoft spokesperson. "We’re confident Facebook will offer great ways to view and engage socially with photos on Facebook. We welcome Flickr to do the same."
The reaction in follow up comments appears to be one of disappointment that Microsoft has retreated from its original vision of combining services into one useful app or hub. Facebook recently committed to building a Windows 8 app, and it's possible Microsoft could be planning to allow the Photos and Facebook apps to share data. The people app in Windows 8.1 will continue to include the usual Facebook integration. We've reached out to Microsoft to confirm whether the decision to remove the Facebook and Flickr photo integration is final, but it certainly appears so from the representative in the community thread.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson has issued a statement on the removals, but the company isn't committing to specifically re-enable the Facebook and Flickr integration:
The new Photos app in the Windows 8.1 Preview includes several enhancements. This includes the ability to edit and organize your local photos in one seamless experience that is deeply integrated into your Windows device. While the new Photos app currently only includes those photos stored locally, our intent is to continue to provide richer functionality, enabling you to view, edit and manage more photos. However, we have nothing more to share on that right now.