This is fantastic. Instagram has just done something I’ve been wanting it to do from day one. It translates the names of people you share photos with on Twitter to their appropriate Twitter name, even if their Instagram name is different.

This means you can mention @mpanzarino on Instagram, and it will get auto-translated to my Twitter name, @panzer. This way it doesn’t break mentions when you share photos out to Twitter. Which will allow people who haven’t checked Instagram — and have a different username on the service — to see that you’ve mentioned them while using Twitter.

Screen Shot 2012 10 19 at 10.18.10 AM 520x519 Instagram now auto translates @mentions of usernames when you share photos on Twitter

Previously, when you shared a photo out from Instagram with a mention of another Instagram user in it, that was just dead text on Twitter if their name was not identical. Now, it will be a live Twitter link and trigger a mention for the person.

Note that this only works if the person you’re @mentioning has connected their Twitter account to Instagram.

Here’s how the rules shake down:

If the @mentioned user has connected Instagram to Twitter:

  • The user’s Instagram username will appear in the photo caption
  • The user’s Twitter username will appear in the tweet

If the @mentioned user has not connected Instagram to Twitter:

  • The user’s Instagram username will appear in the photo caption
  • The @ sign will be removed from the username when shared to Twitter

For @mentions that do not match any Instagram usernames, the @ sign will remain when shared to Twitter.

This additional bit of Twitter interoperability is welcome news after the service had to take a step backwards by ceasing to offer to ‘find your Twitter friends‘ due to Twitter policy changes. It’s a nice bit of forward progress in functionality considering the fact that Instagram is also now owned by competing (sort of) social network Facebook, though it still operates mostly independently.