What Caused Vine to Wither?
Social media has exploded since the mid-2000s, when Facebook began to rise to prominence. The social landscape changes every day, with old apps and platforms giving way to new technologies and services.
This was certainly the case for Vine, a Twitter-owned video-sharing service that appears to be on its way out the door. Although Vine was a once-popular and user-friendly app, some analysts say it was a bad match for Twitter.
How the Vine App Worked
Vine was arguably one of the easiest social media apps to use. A user could upload a video from a smartphone or other device directly to millions of Twitter and Vine followers. A popular Vine video or meme had the potential to make someone’s social media presence explode. Through Vine, more people were able to make connections and expand their networks, both on social media and in real life.
Vine videos were able to compress time so a single video could loop millions of times and generate billions of hits. Videos often referenced each other: One Vine could contain a cross reference to a dozen or so others. This kept viewers searching for similar videos and finding new ones to share with their networks.
A classic example is former “Mad TV” comedian Will Sasso’s series of Vine videos involving lemons. These individual Vine clips have all been combined into one YouTube video.
For a short time, this simple video-sharing service seemed like it might carve out a permanent niche.
Why Vine Worked
Before Vine, there was no quick or easy way to broadcast video. Apps such as Facebook Live and Periscope didn’t exist, and people who took video on their phones were concerned about data and messaging limits. In 2012, Twitter acquired Vine, which eventually had a six-second limit. This allowed users not only to broadcast video, but to focus on the most important parts of what they shared.
Even before the six-second limit, Vine was popular for its short-streaming video. The app was aimed at teenagers, who particularly enjoyed trends and memes. However, Vine expanded to include other demographics, including people in their 50s and 60s.
Michael Pachter, a 60-year-old financial analyst, used Vine regularly and built up a following there and on Twitter.
“You’d have to be a technological idiot not to be able to do it,” he told The New Yorker about shooting Vine videos.
Additionally, Vine was popular because it was perceived as fun.
“Vine is not a tool. It’s a toy,” Vine’s then-new general manager Hannah Donovan told Variety back in June.
Vine was the place to find a quick laugh in the form of pratfalls, potatoes spinning from ceiling fans, and other slapstick antics.
For a good example of how users worked within Vine’s parameters, see this simple video that features a cameo from “New Girl” actor Lamorne Morris. (Be sure to turn the sound on.)
As for Vine’s overall brand of comedy, Donovan admitted, “The witty, wordy comedy of Woody Allen or Will Stillman it was not.”
However, it did attract different type of users than those on Snapchat or Instagram, giving social media users yet another outlet to exert influence.
According to Casey Newton, a writer for The Verge, users also loved Vine because it provided a “creative challenge.” Vine “endlessly rewound itself,” causing people to think of new and unexpected ways to use it.
Newton added that Vine had an early advantage over other social video apps due to its ability to spawn popular memes and much-applauded “cultural moments.”
Why Vine Is Shutting Down
Vine was extremely popular circa 2013-14, so what caused it to die so quickly? One former executive cited other apps such as Instagram, saying Instagram Video was “the beginning of the end” for Vine.
Instagram Video debuted 15-second video limits in 2013 and has since expanded to clips as long as 60 seconds. Users, especially celebrities, found Instagram Video much more flexible than Vine. Although Vine eventually tried offering extended videos, they never caught on.
Snapchat also played a role in killing Vine, as well. Snapchat allows users to send each other video clips individually and/or broadcast them publicly, while Vine videos were only for all users, and even non-users, to see.
Time allowances also made Snapchat superior: The platform allows 10-second clips rather than 6-second ones. Four extra seconds might not seem like much, but extra flexibility attracted users, just as Instagram did. It doesn’t hurt that Snapchat also has all of those face and voice filters to add some extra dimensions to any video.
Problems Behind the Scenes
Instability was another big issue for Vine. Managers consistently quit to pursue startups and other, more lucrative opportunities. In 2015, Twitter underwent massive layoffs, which involved firing Vine’s creative director. Gradually, Vine usage dropped.
Celebrities who once posted on Vine lobbied to be paid for using the app. However, the negotiations came to nothing. Celebrity users hoped to promote Vine videos the way they did Twitter posts and accounts, thus gaining followers. However, interest in Vine peaked around 2014. After that, it was difficult for celebrities, let alone average users, to generate significant followings.
In 2015, Twitter bought a social media talent agency in an attempt to save Vine. However, neither celebrities nor Vine and Twitter executives were interested in giving more money to a dying app. Additionally, Vine never offered its popular users options for reimbursement once negotiations stalled. Thus, they had little incentive to stick with Vine over other similar platforms. Vine never capitalized on its stars’ relationships with popular brands, thereby severely limiting itself.
Other Forms of Media that Contributed to Vine’s Demise
Although Instagram Video and Snapchat were seemingly the biggest threats to Vine, many other social media apps and forms of media played a part, too. Native Twitter videos are one such example.
Unlike Vine, native Twitter videos are not a Twitter sub-service. The social media platform now offers more ways to attach and upload videos. With Vine, videos were mostly broadcast through phones. Meanwhile, Twitter now allows uploads and attachments from computers, tablets and several other types of devices.
Native Twitter videos have a maximum length of 2 minutes and 20 seconds, making them as much as 23 times longer than Vine videos. Twitter’s new limit gives users enough time for a quick instructional video, a miniature vlog entry, or even a sketch comedy routine. Native Twitter videos do not rely on pratfalls and endless looping to keep users engaged.
Unlike Vine, Twitter video uses auto-play similar to Facebook Live. Videos also begin playing as soon as users scroll over them in the feed. This draws the eye directly to the video and makes it more memorable.
GIFs are another popular alternative to Vine. Although they lack audio, which Vine allowed, they communicate quick, memorable and often comical messages. GIFs usually start up easily and loop endlessly, so users can watch them as long as they like, over and over again.
— Jeff Haz Black Cat (@Jeff_the_janito) November 7, 2016
Additionally, GIFs are often used to enhance text. That is, if you want to write a long blog post broken up with engaging pictures or memes, GIFs will most likely keep the audience’s attention. Some users have tried to use Vine videos in the same manner, but they just didn’t work out quite as smoothly.
Finally, YouTube has been a primary alternative to Vine for years. YouTube has no length limit now, and depending on your editing capabilities, a YouTube video of much higher quality than a Vine or Twitter one. Additionally, YouTube offers features Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat cannot, such as the opportunity to create your own channel.
What Was the Major Culprit?
From all the options above, even though they all likely played a role in Vine’s demise, if we had to choose one, we would say GIFs are an unheralded major culprit. As mentioned earlier, for a short period of time, Twitter users were using Vine videos similar to GIFs. That craze eventually died down as users became more comfortable with finding and attaching GIFs, thanks to sites such as Giphy, while Vine videos eventually took on a different purpose.
Some outlets even claimed a couple of years ago that Vine would render GIFs obsolete, but that forecast seems laughable in retrospect.
The problem with using a Vine clip instead of a GIF is that the latter typically accentuates whatever statement the user is trying to make, while the Vine is more of a statement in itself. It doesn’t help that thousands of GIFs capture memorable scenes from some of our favorite movies and TV shows, while Vine mostly featured footage of sporting events as well as original user content.
One the popularity of GIFs was undoubtedly more sustainable on Twitter than that of Vine videos, and when the Vine social network itself began dropping off in activity, the writing was on the wall for the once-prominent video-sharing service. The evolution of human communication is fascinating thing to witness, eh?
But Wait … Is Vine Really Dead?
Just earlier this week, TechCrunch reported that Twitter is shopping Vine around to as many as 10 interested buyers, meaning the platform could survive after all. However, offers for the video-sharing service are reportedly falling short of $10 million, which is a sharp drop from the $30 million Twitter bought it for in 2012.
It is unclear whether Vine or apps like it will endure, or whether they will have a significant presence in social media in the future. In the meantime, users have more ways than ever to chronicle their lives through video and share their experiences.
What’s your favorite way of sharing video experiences online? Leave us a comment below.