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According to TechCrunch’s sources, Twitter is going to launch their own photo hosting service, in direct competition with the likes of Twitpic, Yfrog, Lockerz, Mobypicture, and a number of others. This service would allow you to natively upload images and share them with your followers without needing to go through a third-party service. Twitter has owned the website for a number of years, prompting some to think that may be the name of the new service. [update: the service is now live, more details after the jump.]

This comes just weeks after Twitpic — one of the largest Twitter photosharing services — signed a deal with WENN, seizing publishing rights from the original photographers and keeping them for themselves. With the large fallout from this news, we’ll be extremely curious to see if Twitter will also claim rights to all uploaded images, or if they’ll do something more similar to Mobypicture, who promise that your content will always be yours.

What may worry the creators of these third-party image hosting services is that Twitter has a stated policy that developers should not make “client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” If Twitter starts hosting photos on their own, this may lead to these other companies being killed off.

It’s also rumored that this new Twitter hosting service will be deeply integrated within the next version of iOS — the operating system that powers iPhones and iPads. If you use iPads in your workflow, sending images to Twitter may soon become much, much easier.

Update: Twitter has just brought their service live. In an official blogpost, they say:

For users without smartphones, we’re working with mobile carriers around the world so you can also send photos via text message (MMS). Share what’s happening in your world, anywhere you are.

We’re really excited about our new search and photos experiences and can’t wait for you to try them. We believe both make a huge difference in making the world feel even smaller. The interesting part here is that Photobucket is the engine behind Twitter’s service, rather than something of their own. Any of our readers know off the tops of their heads what the Photobucket ToS are like? Do they claim rights to everything you upload?