Skip to main content

Vine isn't perfect, but it's perfect for Twitter

Vine isn't perfect, but it's perfect for Twitter

Share this story

vine coffee
vine coffee

When Twitter botched its attempted acquisition of photo-sharing app Instagram, it learned a valuable lesson: when you see an app that works perfectly with tweets (short bursts of text), you better snatch it up fast. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was a huge fan of the service, and quickly curbed his Instagram photo tweets when Facebook acquired the company. Some time later, Twitter added filters to the photos section of its app, and nobody cared. Everyone knew video would be next, and there was no way Twitter was going to miss out.

Is Vine the perfect video application for tweets, and thus for Twitter? Yes

Twitter acquired video-sharing app Vine just weeks before it launched, spent a few months tweaking it, and finally debuted it to the world yesterday as a standalone app with Twitter integration. Vine produces six seconds of short-form video, looped endlessly like a GIF — one of the most popular ways to share short moving images online today. With Vine, Twitter is making a big bet on moving images as a new way to show others what you’re doing. So is Vine going to emerge as the Instagram for video? Maybe. Is it the perfect video application for tweets, and thus for Twitter? Yes.

Instagram’s success was never about filters. It was about making photo-sharing to your favorite social networks dead simple. The ability to add filters in Instagram or construct a quick story using Vine's simple editing feature is gravy on top. On mobile apps, one-tap simplicity is key, and Vine might be the first app to make sharing videos inherently as easy as sharing a photo. It’s worth recalling that part of the reason for Instagram’s success is that it enabled normal people to quickly tweet live photos of events. Vine offers a similar capacity, but with video. Six seconds might not be for everyone, but neither is 140 characters. The limitation gives the service the metabolism it needs to succeed.

For the past year dozens of apps argued over the holy grail of video sharing, and none of them won. Viddy and Socialcam took an early lead, but stopped growing — perhaps because winning the battle isn’t about "video," per se. It ends up that the recipe for addictive mobile video is not a simple one to concoct, since videos are inherently more complicated, have larger file sizes than photos, and generally longer. Let’s face it, a 35-second video of your mediocre skateboarding looks a lot less cool than an Instagram snapshot of riding with a rad filter.

Most of the apps that appeared over the last year dropped audio and compromised video quality with gimmicky “features” like low-res "photo bursts" in timeline form (Lightt), or options to loop video in reverse or slow motion (Cinemagram). One even used a thumbnail of a video inside a video to strange effect (GLMPS). None of these apps could agree on a medium, or even a way to distribute content, and none of them aside from Cinemagram mastered virality — the key to which seems in part depend on brevity and ease of consumption.

Vine’s only modification to the video medium is its constraints

Vine’s only modification to the video medium is its constraints. The clips are addictive, and are easy to flip through quickly. "Like Tweets, the brevity of videos on Vine (6 seconds or less) inspires creativity," the company said in a statement, and audio — the weakest and most obviously amateurish element of your recording — is optional. Vine’s medium is also consistent with the video you already shoot on your phone, in many cases: H.264 MP4 video, which any smartphone can play and save to its camera roll.

It also helps that Twitter shows you Vine clips embedded in tweets instead of bouncing you to a web page — one of the qualities that make GIFs so tweetable. Yes, most smartphones can play GIFs, but results are inconsistent and video quality is generally low. The quality of Vine clips is surprisingly high, having found a sweet spot between video resolution and bandwidth usage. So is six seconds the correct length of time to communicate a moving image moment, anyway? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that with Vine there’s nothing to learn — you just point, hold down your finger for six seconds, and share.

So why didn’t Twitter assimilate Vine’s technology and launch it as “Videos” inside the Twitter app? It’s because Vine invented a new medium, or “art form,” as Dorsey calls it. Twitter will likely keep its apps focused on posting text and photos, the staples of the service. Adding and removing features every time a new “medium” goes in or out of style would be a mess. Clearly video wasn’t a sure enough bet that the company committed to it until now, and neither are self-destructing messages like those found in Snapchat or Facebook Poke. Vine is an opportunity for Twitter to own the Instagram it never had — an isolated side project at the height of a trend.

Vine is an opportunity for Twitter to own the Instagram it never had — an isolated side project at the height of a trend

In that vein, I would expect Facebook to update its Facebook Camera app soon to include some form of video capture and sharing. Google in fact already made its play with YouTube Capture, which launched just two weeks ago, and was the first genuinely simple video sharing / hosting app I’ve ever used. What’s interesting is that Google “gets it” too — YouTube Mobile boss Andrey Doronichev once pointed out that Capture includes a ticking timer as you shoot to remind you how long it’s been and encourage shorter videos. If the surge of GIF popularity these past couple years has proven anything, it’s that short videos are incredibly viral and fun to watch. Cinemagram came closest to making short videos simple to produce for normal people, but it wasn’t as dead simple to use as Instagram and didn’t have audio. Making it possible to share real, smooth, video as simply as sharing a photo is the miracle of Vine. With Twitter behind it, as well as some bug fixes and the addition of a front-facing camera option, Vine's odds of success are high — or at least much higher than its competitors from the get-go.

The biggest challenge for Vine? Convincing users it's not just for shooting videos of coffee.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 60 minutes ago Not just you

Emma Roth60 minutes ago
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma RothTwo hours ago
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.

External Link
Emma Roth5:52 PM UTC
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.