The 1 Problem With Twitter's New Image Gallery Feature

With the archive dating back to January 1, 2010, Twitter's latest addition advertises some photos we maybe should have thought twice about

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I was a little embarrassed when I visited my Twitter page this morning and found that most of the little thumbnails displayed on the service's newest feature, Recent Images, are of Instagram photos of beer. Worse, I know exactly where and when those pictures were taken: During the part of a week-long trip to Disney World in which I wandered EPCOT trying to sample alcohol from each of the foreign countries. That's clearly something I thought worth broadcasting at the time, but not something I want others to revisit. I'm tempted, now, to quickly snap a few more photos to push those out of the display.

Twitter added Recent Images on Monday. The new feature highlights the four most recent images taken by Twitter members with a new section on their profile pages. This section includes a 'view all' link that clicks through to a 100-image gallery organized, Tumblr archives-like, in chronological order, but only going back to January 1, 2010.

"User galleries on Twitter aggregate the images you've uploaded in your Tweets into an organized page where you can view all of your most recent images," according to a statement that Twitter released. "The images included in user galleries can come from Twitter, yFrog, TwitPic, Instagram and other image sharing services supported in Twitter's details pane."

Apparently the service catalogs not just photos a member has added to Twitter, but also any photos that member has retweeted from those that he or she follows. See that first image in the embed above? I couldn't remember what it was. Clearly not a tall, frosty glass from the Magic Kingdom. It's a photo a Time magazine editor sent out. I retweeted it along with the note, "If I ran TIME, probably wouldn't want this pic getting out." Apparently someone over there thought the same thing; the picture has been deleted.

When I clicked through to the details view of Twitter's new photo feature, I was presented with this message: "Sorry, we couldn't find that media!" Now, we all know that Twitter messages are being archived and that digital trails aren't the easiest to erase, but when someone thinks better of media they've uploaded to the service, they probably don't consider how future features could force that indiscretion to be advertised.

This is a smart addition to the service and one that will allow Twitter to compete with Facebook and Google+ when it comes to photo features, but perhaps the archive should date back not to January 1, 2010, but to August 22, 2011. We could all start with a blank slate.

Image: Twitter.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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