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Byte’s creator culture will make or break Vine 2

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Not everyone wants to be a creator, but everyone wants to have fun

Image: Dom Hofmann

Vine’s spiritual successor is slated to launch in 2019, yet it already faces two immense and conflicting expectations: that it will be a launching pad for another era of huge stars, and that it’ll recreate the low-key, relaxed, and goofy atmosphere that made Vine so fun.

The app, called Byte, comes from Dom Hofmann, one of Vine’s co-founders. It’ll allow users to create similarly short-form videos, and ideally, find a community of like-minded creators.

But the landscape has changed dramatically since the glory days of Vine. YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, and even Instagram cater toward people looking to build a brand they can turn into a career driven by instant fame. Just about every vibrant social platform now comes with the pressure to not just create, but become a popular creator. And as Byte inches closer to reality, early fans are torn on what to expect.

“You see guys like Jake and Logan Paul, and they’re all over the internet, but they started on Vine,” says Joseph “CatmanJoe” Scougall, a longtime YouTuber and former Vine star. “ You look at the them and think, ‘They started on Vine and I can do that with Byte.’”

A creator’s playground

In March, back when Byte was still in its earliest days and being referred to as V2 (Vine 2), a popular thread in the app’s forums was dedicated to people fantasizing about their lives after they became internet famous. Could someone become the next Lele Pons — a popular Vine kid turned YouTube sensation — or even work together to form a group like Team 10, which was started by Jake Paul?

It’s not enough to just enjoy other people’s content — everyone is pressured to contribute to keep these platforms interesting and afloat. Hofmann seems to know this, too. He’s starting a creator’s program, and would-be stars are already jockeying for their minute of fame. The only way to compete in an oversaturated landscape, which social media has become in the last decade, is to become something even more than just an average user. New platforms, like Byte, allow people to get in first and start building that foundation.

There aren’t any details yet about who Byte’s creators program is hoping to bring on board in its earliest days. Hofmann tells The Verge people should expect the company to be pretty tight-lipped about the program’s specifics until his team has reached out to some creators. Byte is already in the process of reaching out to people, Hofmann says, but he wouldn’t suggest who that is right now.

Who Hofmann decides to prime the network with could set the tone. Unlike Vine, people will approach Byte with an understanding of how to edit videos, what type of short-form content performs well, and where to pick up on trends. It’ll eventually be filled with a generation that watches hours of YouTube and spends time scrolling through TikTok challenge videos every single day. Letting in newcomers could quickly turn Byte into another competitive platform for creators, while bringing back old Vine standbys could help to set the carefree tone many creators miss.

A local hangout

Byte’s forums are filled with people looking for a relaxed, quieter place to goof around on compared to the overwhelmingly busy platforms.

The general attitude of the people on Vine made it really easy and inviting to make funny content,” one creator wrote on Byte’s forums. “Just short jokes or random weird things that happen in everyday life made it a fun place to be.”

Some of Scougall’s favorite Vine memories don’t tie into his own creations. Instead, he remembers sitting with friends and scrolling through their phones, showing each other funny clips they came across. And when he did film something, it felt lower pressure than creating for YouTube. “Vine seemed like you could do anything with your phone,” he says. “It was simpler for smaller people.”

Social media’s double-edged sword remains the fact that in order to attract people, the platform already needs to be populated with successful creators. It’s why YouTube spotlights its creators, and why Instagram is devoting an entire new tier to its best influencers. Companies have to roll into the aspirational fantasy they’ve helped create over the last decade, and Byte is no exception.

Vine never reached that point. Vine was so beloved because it felt perfectly amateurish. It’s like watching old skateboard videos from the ‘90s — everything is real, and that kind of undeniable fun is infectious. It’s not a parade of beauty, like on Instagram, or social growth hacking like on Facebook. It’s not even the endless hours of cringe-inducing content, like on TikTok. It’s just people looking to add their voice to the chorus of other creatives, and have fun in the process.

“If it’s like Vine, you’re really just going to see the real people there,” Scougall said. “I’m just hoping it will be just as good, and won’t just be a competition for fame.”