“Quitpic” — Twitpic is taking you down with it

(Article written September 16, 2014.)

On September 4, 2014, Noah Everett announced that Twitpic would be completely shutting down 21 days later.

The entry closes with the automated blogspeak, “This entry was posted in Announcements by NoahBookmark the permalink.”

Permalink. It's ironic. Twitpic will be deleting everyone's photos in days — photos that themselves had “permalinks.”

The stated reason for the shutdown is that Twitter was holding API access hostage to pressure Twitpic to abandon the pursuit of its trademark application (for the word "Twitpic").

Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours. Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic.

It really sucks when the big boys throw their weight around. It sucks most superlatively indeed when the big boys piss on a little guy who helped them out: Twitpic helped Twitter grow by providing image functionality long before Twitter added native Twitter photos. (And this is far from the first time @dickc’s Twitter has betrayed those who helped Twitter in the early days: It was third-party devs who contributed the word "tweet" and the bird imagery, and then Twitter severely limited API access for those devs. Twitter’s backstabbing is a pattern; I wrote about this 3.5 years ago.)

But does Twitpic need to shut down? Noah does not say that Twitter even asked him to use a different name, or shut down Twitpic. I can be generous and assume that Twitpic no longer has a future ahead of it and that Twitter legal is a convenient scapegoat for shutting down a company that was, at its core, filling a hole in Twitter until Twitter added photos.

I believe in a responsibility to users and to the Internet at large to avoid linkrot, though, so when the Twitpic closure was announced, I immediately sent Noah this note:


Twitter can be a bit of a bully, as I have seen first- and second-hand.

However, I would strongly urge you to reconsider shutting down Twitpic entirely. If you are tired of running it, please, please try to hand it off to someone else.

When Twitpic goes, a huge number of tweets will suddenly link to non-existent photos. Sure, most of these 404s will be unnoticed, but some of those tweets and photos live on, linked from blog posts and news articles, or even in the last tweet posted by, say, a relative who passed away. This is history, and we live in a time when we have the technical ability to keep it around forever. That is an opportunity not to waste and not a responsibility to take lightly.

Wishing you all the best,

Alan Hogan

Not unexpectedly, Noah hasn’t replied.

But it’s worse than that.

There is actually a special sort of superhero called an Internet archivist. If you’ve ever used the Wayback Machine or were able to find a mirror of your GeoCities page after Yahoo deleted all of them, you can thank an Internet archivist. And you can see why I call them “heroes.”

The heroes of Archive Team are attempting to create a mirror of Twitpic before that September 25th deadline. You can help!

But Twitpic isn’t making it easy:

Does the Twitpic link in that last tweet work? That likely depends on whether you’re reading this after September 25, 2014. It’s Jānis Krūms’ photo of Flight 1549 in the Hudson.

I don’t have a lot of hope that Twitpic will do the right thing here, but you can help, and it's easy. (Twitpic really is making it hard to save the data users trusted them with. I was only able to save about 20 photos in about an hour of running the Archive Team Warrior.)

And please, let’s not let this sort of behavior stand as acceptable. It was not okay when Yahoo did it with GeoCities, it was not okay when Twitter did it with Posterous, and it’s not okay when Twitpic does it as a final screw-you to Twitter.

September 17th, 2014
Alan Hogan (@alanhogan_com).  Contact · About