Twitpic is shutting down after Twitter threatened to block access to its API

After six years of operation, image sharing site Twitpic will be closing its metaphorical doors after a legal trademark battle with Twitter. Twitpic’s founder Noah Everett said in a blog post announcing the news Thursday that it doesn’t have the funds to wage a fight with Twitter, which Everett said is asking Twitpic to abandon its trademark application or lose access to the Twitter API. The blog post doesn’t elaborate on why Twitpic wouldn’t just change its name instead of shutting down entirely.

If you haven’t heard of Twitpic, it’s because the service has quietly diminished in relevance. Back in the day, Twitter didn’t offer its own image sharing feature and Twitpic emerged in 2008 to meet that need. One of Twitter’s early viral image hits — the plane that Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed on the Hudson River — was shared via Twitpic.

But once Twitter introduced an image button within the application in 2011, one that made images searchable by related hashtags, there wasn’t as big a need for Twitpic. Today’s announcement appears to be the end of the road for the company. “This is an unexpected and hard announcement for us to make,” Everett said in his blog post.

Twitter responded with a rather strange media statement, professing bereavement at the news it had caused.

We’re sad to see Twitpic is shutting down. We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand.

It’s not entirely clear what Twitter meant in that statement. Did Twitter offer Twitpic a way to stay in business? Could the company keep the name if it stopped trying to trademark it?

I’ve reached out to both Twitter and Twitpic for clarification and will update this if and when they respond.