Please, a 6-second moment of silence for our fallen comrades.
On 27th October 2016, Team Vine & Twitter announced the impending closure of the mobile app Vine through a Medium post. The company did not provide any reason for the decision, but moved to assure Vine users that their videos would be kept online, at least for a time, as well as thanking those that helped drive the platform forward with their creativity and humour.
The news comes amid further troubles for Vine’s owner, Twitter, who have also announced plans to cut 350 jobs (nearly 10% of its work force) in an effort to slim down the company and become profitable. Whilst many may think that Twitter is a social media heavyweight, it has struggled financially ever since going public in 2013, failing to attract new users and turn a profit. This latest development is a sign of the dire straits it finds itself in, with a huge research and development bill and the inability to carry bloated services, which sadly Vine had become.
So, what went wrong for Vine? It emerged on the scene in January 2013 (though it had already been bought by Twitter for a reported $30 million in October 2012) and quickly became the most popular video sharing app, pushing aside rivals such as Tout. It placed a 6-second limit on the videos that could be uploaded, but from this emerged some creative and often hilarious uses of micro video content. Like a teenager with a short attention span, it was loud, sometimes obnoxious, often entertaining and impossible to ignore.
The truth is, the social media landscape is a shark tank, and Vine is just one more casualty. Instagram’s video features have clearly cut into Vine’s popularity and market share, whilst Facebook Live is attempting to dominate live streaming and reactive video. Vine created its own celebrities, like the Eh Bee Family and Nash Grier, but many of these moved to publishing content on YouTube and Facebook, where the larger audiences meant more profit. Take away any organisations top talent and it’s bound to suffer, and Vine was no different.
It also raises the question of the longevity of micro-content. Yes, it absolutely has its place, but as a profitable, sustainable platform? Perhaps not. As we drive towards authentic engagement with audiences, can you really produce anything meaningful in such a short space of time? Is that why the lifespan of Vine was as fleeting as its own videos, because for all the laughs and the personality, it was just window dressing.
That all seems plausible… except for the fact that it’s not the complete truth. Vine was actually instrumental to civil rights in recent years, documenting the racial tension in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 following the shooting and death of a black teenager by a white police officer. Vine captured the resulting protests and gave those involved the chance to broadcast what was really happening, when their voices may have otherwise gone unheard. The power of social media was proven once again, resonating with the liberating role it played during the Arab Spring.
So, for all the funny videos, Vine did have a truly meaningful place in the social media landscape. It was capable of incredible things, but those voices were often drowned out by the virality of Ryan Gosling refusing to eat his cereal or a seal playing the saxophone. However, it showed us that live streaming is a huge development that will continue to dominate our newsfeeds in the coming years. This should come as no surprise, with Facebook heavily investing into the live streaming market. It’s expected that the functionality of Vine will be absorbed into the core Twitter service, with the ability to share longer form videos without a 6-second limit potentially expanding its potential.
Whether this will transform Twitter’s fortunes remains to be seen, but hopefully Vine will be remembered as the pre-cursor to the open, transparent digital society that social media and web 2.0 originally promised us, rather than simply as a purveyor of videos of dogs in shoes.
Although, to be fair, that was pretty funny.