SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc's recently-acquired photo-sharing service Instagram removed a key element of its integration with Twitter, signaling that competition between the popular Web social media companies may be heating up.
Instagram said it had turned off support for Twitter "cards" - a Twitter feature that allows Instagram's photos to be embedded and viewed directly within a Twitter message. On Wednesday, Twitter users discovered that Instagram photos did not display properly on Twitter's website.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said his company had decided that its users should view photos on Instagram's own Web pages.
"We believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives," Systrom said in a statement, citing recent improvements to Instagram's website.
"A handful of months ago we supported Twitter cards because we had a minimal web presence," Systrom said, noting that the company has since released new features that allow users to comment about and "like" photos directly on Instagram's website.
Systrom noted that Instagram users will be able to "continue to be able to share to Twitter as they originally did before the Twitter Cards implementation."
Instagram, which has 100 million users, allows consumers to share with friends on their smartphones. Facebook acquired Instagram in September for $715 million, and has said it intends to run the company as a separate product.
When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the acquisition in an April blog post, he said one of Instagram's strengths was its inter-connectivity with other social networks.
"We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience," Zuckerberg wrote. "We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks."
A status message on Twitter's website on Wednesday said that users are "experiencing issues," such as "cropped images" when viewing Instagram photos on Twitter.