Twitter, surprisingly, never used to natively support images back in 2008 and so a new service was born: Twitpic. Various popular third-party Twitter clients supported Twitpic and it was used by thousands, but Twitter eventually added photo sharing to its service and it was clear services like Twitpic and Yfrog weren’t going to last forever. Twitpic is now shutting down on September 25th, but not because it couldn’t compete with Twitter’s own image service — because Twitter is killing it dead.
In a blog post announcing the service closure, Twitpic’s Noah Everett notes "Twitter contacted our legal demanding that we abandon our trademark application or risk losing access to their API." The move shocked Everett "since Twitpic has been around since early 2008, and our trademark application has been in the USPTO since 2009." Twitpic doesn’t have the resources to battle Twitter legally and Everett has decided to shut down Twitpic instead.
Thank you everyone who used @Twitpic & allowing me the honor of helping share your experiences. I will miss & cherish our days of Twitpic!— Noah Everett (@noaheverett) September 4, 2014
A classic case of Twitter aggressively targeting third-party developers
It’s a classic case of Twitter changing its rules and dominating the very features that third-party developers and services made popular on the service. Twitter has taken an aggressive stance on third-party Twitter clients over the past couple of years, forcing many to close down or charge users for access to precious tokens that the social network restricts developers with. Back in 2008 Twitter was a growing service and it was a free-for-all for developers. Today it has millions of users and hungry investors to answer to in a quest to make itself profitable.
For its part, Twitter responded to the demise of Twitpic by suggesting that Twitpic was to blame for not heeding Twitter's warnings. As a spokesperson for the company told The Washington Post: "We're sad to see Twitpic is shutting down...We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand."
This post was updated after publication to include comments from Twitter's spokesperson.