Written by Emma Vetriano • Published 11th September 2011

With 200 million registered users to Facebook’s 750 million, Twitter has long been hot on the heels of its all-powerful predecessor, to usurp the social media crown. The latest Twitter move is perhaps its shrewdest yet – the recently launched photo-tweeting tool suddenly makes Twitter so much more than a ‘glorified Facebook status’. The gauntlet has officially been thrown.

Twitter has been moving for some time in this direction, with external photo sharing tools such as Twitpic, popping up all over to make our tweets that bit more visual.

All Twitter profiles now have an image gallery of all the photos that the user has ever tweeted. The four most recent photos are visible in a Facebook-esque thumbnail display on the main profile. So there is now a visual record of all the past photos a user has tweeted using external sharing sites.

The crucial point is that now, every time you tweet via Twitter itself, you have the option to upload a photo. By doing so Twitter automatically uploads this photo to your profile and includes a shortened link to it in your tweet. In reality, this is a clear move to internalise the photo sharing capacity and will inevitably leave the plethora of Twitpic-alikes redundant. The aim is to encourage users to tweet photos by making it as simple and foolproof as possible. It is hard to justify that extra step for uploading photos externally, especially with the recent expose about the ownership of Twitpics.

Popular social media managing platforms such as HootSuite and Tweetdeck are yet to catch up with this development but it will only be a matter of time before they follow suit.  Twitter is after all, their main bread and butter.

It will be interesting to track the direction of Twitter photos. Many in the industry are speculating that the next step will be a video gallery. For my part, I think there are still several issues that need to be resolved with the basic photo functionality, before Twitter can start getting more complex.

There are some small technical glitches, such as multiple uploading of the same photo, that no doubt Twitter will be addressing as we speak. However, the key issue is the absence of user control. You can’t delete a photo that appears in your gallery without deleting the original tweet. Equally, there is no function that allows users to choose the thumbnail photos that appear on their profile – it is automatically just the most recent uploads.

In my view, this is a fatal flaw that Twitter will need to address, to be a real contender for Facebook in this fruitful sector of social media. Content control makes the social media experience more enjoyable for the personal user and is essential for professional profiles.

What do you think Twitter’s next move will be?