Farewell Vine, the ‘six-second sensation’

Vine is the kingdom: At its peak, there were 200 million active ‘Viners’.

A week ago Twitter launched its replacement for Vine, having announced in October that it would close the service. What went so wrong for the app, and should we mourn its passing?

In June 2012 three young New York entrepreneurs — Rus Yusupov, Dom Hoffman and Colin Kroll — set up a tech start-up. The vast majority of these companies fail. But not Vine. Just five months later, the trio were millionaires after Twitter purchased the video-sharing site for $30m, launching it as an iPhone application in January 2013.

On October 27th last year, Vine’s death knell sounded, as Twitter announced that it would not be developing the app any further. Users will still be able to view and download Vines from a new app called Vine Camera, which was launched last Wednesday; what is disappearing is Vine’s own independent social network.

Vines have two unique selling points: the videos are limited to six seconds, a factor that fitted in well with Twitter’s 140-character brevity revolution. The other is that its videos are on an endless loop. According to Hoffman, this tweak was to stop the ultra-short videos feeling ‘anticlimactic’. The most viewed videos have been looped well over a billion times.

The app quickly became an integral part of online culture. A BBC review described collections of Vines as ‘a bewildering carousel of six-second slices of ordinary life’.

The defining video of the Boston marathon bombing in 2013 was a chilling Vine of the moment of one of the blasts. The media called it the platform’s ‘Tahrir Square moment’. It was also vital to the coverage of the Ferguson unrest in 2014.

But Vine’s low-tech simplicity — you cannot adjust the sound, for example — has meant that snazzier alternatives have swallowed it up: Twitter now has its own video-streaming facility, and has bought and launched the live-streaming app Periscope. The popularity of Snapchat had also undermined Vine’s status as the home of the short, instant video.

Vine symbolised one of the great questions of humanity: how to make communication easier. Once, the invention of an organised postal system was life-changing. Then there were the telephone, the email, Skype, Twitter and Snapchat. But Vine is set to go the same way as the telegram and Myspace. Should we be sad?

Out of the loop

‘Get over it!’ say some. Vine was great once, but so were longbows, VHS players and pagers. Instead of mourning these relics, we should celebrate their demise as a sign of human progress. Vine is a victim of natural selection, and its replacements are bound to be better.

Thousands of bereft ‘Viners’ disagree. They say that the discipline of making a six-second video turned Vine into a great creative force, and that nothing similar will replace it. Its simplicity was part of its charm, and its characteristic brevity and humour will be sorely missed. Rest in peace.

You Decide

  1. Are you sad about Vine closing down?
  2. Is nostalgia a force for good?

Activities

  1. Write 500 words on how you expect social media and communication to have changed by 2050.
  2. Research one invention that has now fallen out of use, charting its rise and the reasons for its decline.

Some People Say...

“Simplicity is overrated.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I never really liked Vines. Why should I care about this?
It is always interesting to think about technological trends, and why certain ideas succeed more than others. After all, the way people communicated even a decade ago was very different from today. One of the reasons for Vine’s closure is because Twitter itself is struggling and needs to save money. Who knows: perhaps even Twitter will not be around in a few years’ time.
Do people really mourn outdated technology?
You would be surprised. Sales of vinyl records, for example, have undergone a huge revival in the last decade and sales are now at the level of the early 1990s, before the digital revolution. Experts put this down to a deep-seated love of physical objects that you can see and hold, and a preference for analogue sound.

Word Watch

Rus Yusupov
When news of Twitter’s decision broke, Yusupov tweeted: ‘Don’t sell your company!’
Boston marathon bombing
Two homemade bombs were detonated at the finishing line of the Boston marathon in 2013. The perpetrators were a pair of Chechen brothers — Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Dzhokhar was sentenced to death in April 2015, while Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout the day after the bombings.
Tahrir Square
The square in the centre of Cairo which was the focal point of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. The revolution was notable for the huge amount of live coverage it received.
Ferguson unrest
A series of protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer. The shooting fuelled intense debate over the relationship between the police and African Americans in the USA.
Snapchat
2016’s most downloaded free app and the most popular social network among teens.