Last week saw the long foreseen announcement from Twitter that the Vine mobile app is to be shut down, with the future of the 6 second video network’s website remaining very uncertain. This announcement comes only days after Twitter’s decision to cut 300 jobs, about 8% of their total workforce, only fuelling rumours of the social network’s financial and mismanagement troubles.
In their statement last Thursday Twitter announced that for the time being the website would remain online, allowing creators time to download and save uploaded content and so users can ‘still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made’. However, with multiple groups trying to raise funds to save the network and Giphy even building a Vine to GIF import tool, the end of Vine might not mean the end of the 6 second video.
A 6-Second History
Vine’s rise in 2012 was as sudden as its fall in 2016. Twitter was experiencing a huge influx in users from their role in keeping connectivity during the Arab Spring and desperately needed to integrate their own video service into their network. Vine’s six second format was the match made in heaven for Twitter’s 140-character limit, and so was bought up before Vine had even been launched.
For a long time the partnership looked set to take over the social media universe, with Vine at its peak clocking in approximately independent 200,000 viewers a month alongside Twitter’s 300 million active users, while estimates as high as 100 million viewers were watching Vine content on other platforms. The format began to give rise to a new form of creative video making, with users seeing the 6 second limit as a challenge to see what could be achieved in such a short clip.
From this new well of creativity ‘Vine Stars’ began to emerge from the user base, their videos not only being relooped on the app hundreds of thousands of times but being shared across all social media platforms to millions of viewers. Users like Logan Paul and Brittany Furlan became household names, with Paul having clocked up an overall 4 billion loops and Furlan having just landed a sketch show with Seth Green.
However, the fast and wild success of Vine’s format was the beginning of its downfall. With a user base for short, life-mapping video having been established, other apps adopted and improved Vine’s model. Snapchat and Instagram soon poached large amounts of Vine’s daily user base, offering features like Instagram’s Boomerang app and Snapchat’s Story feature and eventually muscling Vine’s stiff and non-adaptive business model out of its own market.
With Vine’s user base waning and with their failure to establish a monetisation model, Vine too began to lose some of its biggest names to its competitors. Most comfortable in Vine’s short format the majority of Vine Stars took to Snapchat first, posting their most popular videos to Facebook and Youtube for ad-revenue. Over time, some like Furlan have been picked up by television networks whilst others like Nash Grier maintain lucrative Youtube channels, creating similar content for audiences of over 4 million subscribers.
Nowadays Vine is almost completely abandoned by its original Vine Stars, with Logan Paul’s last video posted in April and Brittany Furlan’s in August, the current climate a long shot from Vine’s golden era of stars uploading daily.
What went wrong?
Twitter has this week reached the height of its unpopularity, and perhaps rightly so. Since the announcement of Vine’s closure last Thursday, every commentator and tech blog has been clamouring to get a word in on where Twitter went wrong.
The general consensus is at least that Twitter allowed Vine to become stagnant. Vine changed very little throughout its short life, not implementing video monetisation or promotable content alongside almost every other network and rarely even updating the app’s design.
As a result, the Vine user base became loyal fans of the influencers and Vine Stars, not loyal fans of the platform. This meant when the creators left for other more lucrative platforms, so did the audience.
The devaluing of Vine has been so great in the last 4 months that rumours of a split have long been in the works, with the majority of Vine’s top level employees jumping ship over the summer. Twitter is also rumoured to have approached Disney among other brands recently concerning a potential sale of the platform, but has yet struggled to find any takers.
Ultimately in just 4 years, harsh competition and Twitter’s mismanagement of Vine has rendered the ‘next big thing’ unsellable. As Vine founder Rus Yusupov bitterly tweeted last week – “Don’t sell your company!”.
Vine will soon be gone, but we can say with certainty that its content still has a long life ahead. A cursory scroll through Vine’s newsfeed today showed almost every video maker using this ‘download’ period to bring anyone and everyone to their new project, all having changed their vine handle to an Instagram or Snapchat username. In the end, the remaining Vine users will have to learn a lesson that Vine never did: adapt or be left behind.
For Twitter however, this could mark the beginning of the end. Without some serious shake-ups in video hosting and some innovative changes Twitter could soon be tailing its competitors. The introduction of the ‘Go Live’ feature was a step in the right direction, however without consistent and significant changes to Twitters development model even Periscope should be getting nervous.