Up Close With Twitter’s New Photo Sharing Feature

Earlier this month, Twitter announced that it would be rolling out its own photo sharing service. I found this enabled for my own account last week and today got a formal message about it. So, I thought a close look at how it works might be useful.

Use The Camera Icon For Photo Sharing

Right now, I only see the feature through the Twitter.com website, not through the official Twitter apps I use for the iPhone, Android or the iPad. Below the tweet box on the website, there’s a camera icon that appears for those with access to it:

Click the camera icon, and you can select an image from your computer. Only one image can be added to a tweet (some Twitter applications allow tweeting multiple images).

After you’ve selected your image, a small (and hard to view) thumbnail will be shown. If you change your mind, the X button (as the first arrow points at below) can be used to remove the image. The second arrow highlights how the camera icon turns blue to alert you that you’re uploading an image:

Notice the number “120″ showing up next to the tweet button. The picture — or the URL to it — does take up some of your 140 characters of a tweet. I’ve seen it take only 19 characters before; it might take more, in some cases.

Your Pictures, On Twitter

Add your tweet, push the tweet button, and you’re done. Your picture has been shared via Twitter. Here’s an example of how my first photo shared using the service looked last week:

As you can see, the picture is shown in context with my original tweet, something that Twitter purposely wanted to happen, to help keep the authorship of a photo linked to the person tweeting it.

What you don’t get are any options to allow others to embed the photo. Nor is there anything to flag copyright restrictions, in case you want (or don’t want) the photo to be used by others off Twitter, in some way. There’s also no way to easily flip through and manage just the photos you’ve shared on the service, at least for the moment.

Also notice at the bottom the “Powered by Photobucket” message. Photobucket provides the backend hosting of these images, though they are kept separately from any Photobucket account you might have, to my understanding.

Want It? The Rollout Is Happening

Who gets this service now? Anyone who Twitter randomly enables it for. Twitter said on June 1 that it would be rolling out the feature over the course of several weeks for Twitter.com (support for Twitter’s mobile apps will also be provided, but no time frame has been given).

When the feature was added to my account last week, there was no heads-up to alert me to this. It just appeared.

However, it looks like more people are likely to be getting it soon, since Twitter today gave me a special message when I logged in to flag the new feature to my attention:

Twitter also provided a link to what appears to be a relatively new help page about the service, About Image Uploading on Twitter.

The help page notes that images can be up to 3MB and that meta “EXIF” data stored with some photos won’t be recorded, so things like location data or type of camera used won’t be included.

Coming: User Photo Galleries

The help page also says that a “gallery” feature to show all pictures from a particular user will be coming — and that it will include any pictures shared through any service, not just through Twitter’s own:

User galleries will include images a user has shared on Twitter, including those uploaded via other services, such as Twitpic, yfrog, and Instagram.

It’s unclear how far back the galleries will go. Twitter already has an issue in some quarters that people can’t go back more than a few days in their own tweet histories, as our stories below cover:

However, it’s likely that for photos, Twitter will go back much further in the galleries.


Overall, I love that there’s native sharing with Twitter during a time when some third-party services (here’s looking at you, Twitpic) haven’t made clear whether they’re laying claim to your photos for sale and distribution without your express agreement. That’s also a chief reason that Twitter itself said it was providing this service.

I also love that for new people, there will be a native Twitter photo sharing app bundled within the service, making it easy for them to get started with the same service they already use for their tweets.

Things not to love? Well…

  • You can only delete a photo by deleting a tweet (as is the case with Yfrog but not Twitpic)
  • You can’t see how many views a photo has
  • There’s no video support
  • There’s no way to indicate permissions information

The first point isn’t that big of an issue. The view data is much bigger concern but easily fixed. I imagine video support will come.

The issue with permissions is a real challenge. The new service means that if you have faith in Twitter, you don’t have to rely on third party hosting services that might claim your photos for themselves. However, it does nothing to solve the bigger issue of third parties in general simply thinking they can copy-and-use pictures without permission.

In my dream world, I’d like to see Twitter figure out a way for its users to easily license their pictures to others if they want. But, I suppose the hosting service itself is a good first step toward that goal.

Also, if you haven’t yet tried the “Top Images” feature after doing a Twitter search, check it out. I’ve found it does a great job producing topically-based photo galleries. The last related story below explains this more.

Related Stories

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: General | Top News | Twitter: Pictures & Images


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://seo-cubed.com S.S.S.

    Nice post. Thanks for the update Danny. Here’s a thought.. even if twitter was able to guarantee that photos shared could have some sort of rights management, I think this direction is highly unlikely. Google is getting pretty good at indexing this content, and some services like YFrog make it pretty easy for the content to be scraped. At which point it’s out there and hard to manage. For those that are interested in digital rights management of their photos they should submit them for copyright protection BEFORE sharing them on the web.

  • http://www.planetc1.com/ Michael Dorausch

    Nice to see twitter rolling out these features but I’ll still likely continue with a self hosted solution. After sharing images across numerous services these past few years I’ve felt it’s better to keep everything in one place.

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