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Hey, Facebook, get your damn hands off her

Instagram and Back to the Future have a lot in common.

The first time I heard Facebook was buying Instagram, this is the image that immediately came to mind. I wanted to jump in and stop the tragedy that was about to unfold, just as George McFly did for the woman of his dreams.

This isn’t a column about what’s wrong with Facebook buying Instagram. To write that now would only make sense if I had a DeLorean. But after the recent snafu between Instagram and Twitter, I was reminded that this kind of stuff didn’t happen in 1955, errrr I mean before the acquisition. Now that Facebook’s pulling the strings, the battle between Facebook and Twitter for dominance has dragged Instagram along for the ride.

Heavy, I know.

To hear Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom tell it, this has nothing at all to do with the Facebook acquisition. “This is an evolution of where we want links to our content to go,” he said in explaining why the photos you love to post to Instagram and share on Twitter will no longer be cropped correctly on the latter. Now that you can view your photos at instagram.com, which isn’t a bad thing, Systrom was protecting his baby by making sure people were trained to go there instead of to a competing site.

That’s all well and good. You could even call it admirable. But considering we’re talking about social media, nothing is more anti-social than pissing off a giant chunk of the social media universe. And Systrom can say what he wants about it having nothing to do with Facebook, but I can’t help but get this feeling that someone was whispering “wouldn’t it be fun if we were to try this …”

It was definitely a GREAT SCOTT moment, although for a while it seemed Systrom was telling Twitter to make like a tree and get out of here. He later apologized and explained that sharing between Instagram and Twitter will always be possible.

That said, it’s going to be interesting to see where this goes and watch how team Facebook-Instagram plays with team everyone else. Facebook swore when it announced the purchase that it was going to let Instagram do what it does and stand back because it does it so well. I knew that wasn’t going to last, heck everyone did. But now Facebook is already looking for new ways to monetize Instagram by sharing data between the two platforms. Inevitable, but scary.

Competition is important. When brands compete, consumers win. But that’s not absolute. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and play nice. But after the latest incident, I can’t help but wonder: What would an all out war between Facebook and Instagram and Twitter look like?

I foresee a few possibilities: Consumers probably wouldn’t choose sides. Twitter is no substitute for Instagram and Facebook and vice versa. They’d likely just put up with the inconvenience, kind of the way iOS and Android users do.

Or the encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!

Granted, that’s the worst-case scenario. The destruction however might be limited merely to our own galaxy.

About Scott Kleinberg

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