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Twitter takes aim at Instagram with its own shot at photo filters

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It might look like just a tint of color on top of a smartphone photo, but Twitter’s reported foray into the territory of photo-sharing and filtering could be a huge move for the social network as it continues to look for ways to grow its revenue and influence. Nick Bilton at the New York Times reports that Twitter will soon be adding the ability to filter photos before uploading them to the service, mimicking Instagram’s secret sauce and potentially making Facebook’s (s fb) pricey acquisition less valuable.

So far, Instagram and Facebook have dominated the photo-sharing and upload experience, and their combination this year was one of the most talked-about acquisitions in Silicon Valley. Twitter has been working this summer to monetize its product, cracking down on API use and introducing new forms of advertising, so moving into the profitable photo space makes sense for the company. In fact, Twitter blocked users from finding their Twitter friends through Instagram, signaling the beginnings of divisions between the companies, although it was rumored that Twitter had earlier been interested in an acquisition of the photo-sharing service before Zuckerberg made his move.

As Om Malik wrote earlier this year, photo-sharing is the ultimate social experience on the web, and the medium that makes us tick. It’s what powers Facebook and keeps people tagging and liking and sharing. Photos create a dramatic level of engagement, and for a site like Twitter that’s looking to grow users and brand experiences, having its own compelling photo experience will be key (as seen above with Instagram filters applied to a photo of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.)

Twitter is also making a play into the media world, and as any website or magazine will tell you, photos are a must-have in the digital media space. Instagram photos of Hurricane Sandy spread quickly across the internet this week, and if Twitter could control how its users communicate text and images in real-time, that would up the ante. Users who leave Twitter to upload and share photos are a missed opportunity for the company.