Friday 4 March 2016
Facebook doesn’t often give the impression of being scared of anything, but it looks like the social network is a bit concerned about the potential for competition from Snapchat and Telegram.
The two social networks have found themselves blacklisted from Facebook’s Instagram service, just weeks after Telegram also reported minor censorship among users of Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger.
Instagram users who try to set their profile URL to link to either a Telegram or Snapchat page find themselves warned instead that “Links asking someone to add you on another service aren’t supported on Instagram”.
Telegram also highlighted another issue, on WhatsApp, which prevented links to its own service from showing up as clickable. Users are even prevented from cutting and pasting a link to Telegram or its profile pages.
Facebook says: “We’ve removed the ability to include ‘add me’ links on Instagram profile pages. This was a rare use-case, and not the way our platform was intended to be used. Other types of links are still allowed.”
In other words, the links to Telegram and Snapchat that are blocked are more single-purpose than most other networks, focused largely on adding new contacts. It’s not possible, for instance, to link to a particular post, or to view a history of previous posts, through those links.
The story is reminiscent of troubles Instagram went through when it was a small network itself. In 2012, Twitter unilaterally blocked Instagram from using the “find friends” feature on its API. The company had been concerned that users were simply exporting their following lists to Instagram, and tried to stem the exodus.
In the end, Twitter was right to be concerned: Instagram is now the larger social network, with 400 million monthly active users compared to Twitter’s 320 million. So its no surprise that Instagram now wants to stop users adding each other on cooler, smaller and younger social networks in turn. But as Twitter’s experience shows, it’s hard to keep the floodgates shut forever.