August 9th was a dark day for third-party Twitter photo sharing services like TwitPic and YFrog. Twitter launched its own official service with Photobucket as its hosting partner. Now, stats shared with us by photo search engine Skylines show that Twitter has become the number one photo sharing service on the platform, handling 36% of shares. TwitPic now processes 30% of tweeted photos and YFrog is down to 21%. Just 5 months ago, TwitPic had 45.7% and YFrog had 29.3%, but now it looks like they must differentiate or die a slow death.
Things started getting scary for the third-parties in March when Twitter announced that straight-forward clients would no longer be permitted in an effort to promote diversity on the platform. In fact, Twitter’s co-founder had foreshadowed it might move into photos back in April 2010. Still, then ecosystem leader TwitPic said it was blindsided by Twitter’s move, as the platform leader never briefed that company despite giving a heads up to YFrog and Plixi.
Another critical blow as struck when Twitter announced it would open an API for its photo sharing service, allowing app developers to build on and host their photos with it rather than through third-party photo services. And when it couldn’t get any worse, the roll out of the official photo service was accompanied by the launch of Twitter Galleries, which lets users view all tweeted photos including those from third-parties.
With easier ways to share and view photos directly through Twitter, the decline of TwitPic and YFrog seemed assured. Twitter’s current overall lead comes way of its Twitter for iPhone client which accounts for 42% of photos shared to its photo service and 21% of all photos shared on Twitter. Its iOS5 integration is successful too, with iOS Photos and Camera combining to become the 7th biggest Twitter photo client, publishing 5% of tweeted photos. Instagram carries 12% of photos shared to Twitter.
However, users seem ingrained in their behavior, as Skyline’s analysis of 24 million photos shared during a week in late October show users haven’t abandoned the third-party services overnight. TwitPic remains the most popular sharing service for Android devices, accounting for 39% of photo shares through Google’s mobile OS. YFrog meanwhile leads on BlackBerry devices with 47%.
Still, if they don’t want their remaining user base to slip away, TwitPic, YFrog and others will need to offer something unique — ways to touch up or enhance photos as they’re shared, and innovative ways to sort galleries.