Twitter takes on Facebook, Snapchat with improved photo tools

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New image and video editing tools revealed in recent tweets from various celebrities show that Twitter is, once again, bringing the fight to Facebook and Snapchat.

The new tools appear to allow Twitter users to share images with text overlays, stickers, and other modifications. Twitter’s existing tools merely allow people to crop images or run them through filters that greatly change their appearance, whether it’s by upping the contrast or making them look like old Polaroid shots.

Here’s one of the more popular examples of what the new tools can do, courtesy of Taylor Swift:

Much about the new tools, such as whether they’ll debut in a standalone product or if they’ll be included in Twitter’s existing mobile applications, is currently unknown. Twitter declined to comment to Gigaom on the record. Historically, Twitter tends to add new features to its app instead of introducing new ones.

But it seems clear that these tools are meant to bring Twitter to parity with Facebook and Snapchat, both of which have offered similar tools for a while. The service isn’t content with being the Internet’s live broadcast network; it wants to convince people to use its apps instead of other social media tools, too.

Twitter isn’t alone in these efforts, of course. Facebook has tried to copy various aspects of the micro-blogging service for years, without much success, and it’s reportedly working on a tool it hopes will supplant Twitter’s role as a news wire. It’s almost like both companies are holding funhouse mirrors in front of the other and creating new services based on whatever they see in the reflections.

Yet these features appear to be targeted more at Snapchat. The ephemeral messaging service has offered similar tools for longer than both Facebook and Twitter, and it’s clear that both companies fear their younger competitor. Facebook tried to fight it with stickers and other features for Messenger. Now it’s Twitter’s turn to try to fight off the threat posed by Snapchat’s popularity.

“What’s interesting is that Twitter is still fairly poor at private messaging, and yet other than for celebrities it feels like a lot of these features would be best suited to stuff you’d share with your friends rather than the world at large,” says Jan Dawson, the chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “So I’m curious to see how Twitter positions these new features when it formally announces them.”

Dawson is right. Twitter is known mostly for the public nature of its service; that’s what makes it useful during live events, breaking news, and other times when it’s nice to have access to a few million opinions just a few clicks away. The company is working to change that, however, and become more private.

Earlier this month, Twitter removed the 140-character limit from direct messages on its service and said that was one of its users’ most-requested changes. I argued at the time that this change makes Twitter more like Google+ and the semi-private “circles” it decided to hang its all-too-ill-fated hat on.

Now it seems like this is part of a coordinated effort to combat Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and other messaging services that are just starting to become popular in the West. Twitter’s emphasis on public sharing is waning — now it’s giving private communication a chance to thrive on its service. And, of course, it’s giving celebrities new toys to draw a little more attention to itself.

Let’s see if this transition makes a difference. People who want to use Snapchat will probably continue to use Snapchat. The same goes for Facebook, Twitter, and other social websites. All these mirrors, yet both Facebook and Twitter seem so uncomfortable with their own reflections that they try to emulate the other instead of trying to compete by being the best versions of themselves.

Someone get that bird a self-esteem boost.

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Heather Steel

Does not help me one iota. I’ve somehow been locked out of my Twitter account, and they keep saying the problem has been dealt with, while it has not. Useless! Upside is, I ‘ve found I can live without Twitter :-)

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