The Internet Giveth, And Taketh Away: Sometimes, Business Decisions Are Bad For Users

Just when you thought everything on the Internet was shiny and happy, things like today’s Instagram decision to pull support for Twitter cards happens. Instagram Co-Founder said at Le Web that it was purely a business decision and that the company feels like people should be able to see photos in their full glory…on Instagram’s (updated) site, with profiles.

That’s cool, because well, it’s not our business. Things get very tricky once the fun things we use on the Internet get pulled away from us in the way that we’re used to using them. We’re used to Facebook making changes all of the time, without consulting the people who use the social network every second of the day. That’s OK, because it’s not our place to say otherwise, we vote with our time and clicks.

The thing about Instagram’s move is that now that it’s a part of Facebook, it needs to make grown up business decisions to flourish. It just so happens that in doing so, it took away a usecase that all of us are used to — seeing full Instagram photos within a tweet, using Twitter cards. Hey, Twitter isn’t off the hook here, it took away API firehose access from developers, and it’s a tough transition for everyone involved.

Mind you, this isn’t the first awkward move between Twitter and Instagram. Then there was Twitter and Tumblr.

For companies

For a company that wants to gain critical mass, sometimes you have to do things in an open way to attract everyone. Sure, when you pull it away, it might seem like a bait and switch, but this is business after all, right? But how can you lessen the blow for your very important users customers that got you there in the first place? Communicate.

When I say communicate, I mean pre-meditate every single move that you make. Don’t let anything be a surprise. If you think that by changing something, it will upset your users, then pre-communicate. This is why companies have blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages. If you’re going to make a move, such as changing the Twitter experience for photos, just say so. Then give a date, and do it.

Grow up, grow a pair, and let it ride. This is your business and livelihood.

However, when changes are made in the middle of the night, and you have to go on stage at a conference to defend them, something is wrong. It just doesn’t site right. It’s time to rethink who you really care about and who matters. Don’t take battles with other companies out on the people who use your product.

For users

As a user, you must know that the winds of change happen in technology by the second. Decisions are made quickly and today’s engineers make the changes even quicker. Yes, someone can have an idea that they think is great during a three-hour meeting, and it can be placed into production environments in just a few more hours. Quick, fast iteration is the name of today’s game on the Internet.

It’s not something that consumers are used to at all. Basically, we like things to stay the same. We get into a groove and come to expect certain things because companies gave us certain features or use cases. It’s not our fault when we get upset when they disappear, but at the same time, we need to wise up to the fact that this will happen. A lot.

So on this, understand that Instagram is making a decision that helps its company, which is now Facebook. It doesn’t really care about growing Twitter’s business. It’s not like Instagram shut off Twitter completely, so don’t get me wrong on that. But basically, this change is one of many that we’ll see.

Get ready.

Moral of the story

The moral of the story is that in a fast-paced consumer Internet, consumers are going to be left in the dust sometimes. There are moves, decisions, features and business deals that might not sit with consumers. But again, we vote with our clicks and time.

If you don’t like something? Try something else. It’s ok to play the field, you’re not cheating on anyone. Just because everyone and your brother uses Instagram, doesn’t mean you have to as well. You might find out that you truly do love Instagram and you’ll be in it for the long haul, no matter what they do.

Do I want Instagram’s Twitter integration to go back to what it was? Yes. But it’s not my decision. Instagram says it will stay independent of Facebook for a “long time”, we’ll see just how long and what that means for users exactly.

Companies? Love your users. A lot. Communicate. More than you have to. Transparency always wins.

[Photo credit: Flickr]