Vine, not the organic kind that your grapes hang off of, was a one-of-a-kind short video sharing service that dominated Internet media in the 2010s. Set up by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll in June of 2012, it was eventually bought by Twitter for $30,000,000 in October 2012 (Smith, 2021). Content creators uploaded short videos capped at six seconds to the app or online to be shared by users to a variety of Internet portals such as Twitter and Facebook. The app itself was not launched until January 24th, 2013 on iOS devices and June 2, 2013 for Android devices. An impressive point to note is that Vine became the most popular and most utilized video-sharing application in just a short span of two months on April 9, 2013 on the Apple app store. The web version did not release until a year later on May 1, 2014, during which users were granted easier access to their favorite collection of short videos online.
The striking features that separated Vine from other online media sharing services, primarily YouTube, are derived from Vine’s simplicity and minimalism. On YouTube, the user has to type a keyword into the search bar and scroll through a list of matching results to find a particular video. Though YouTube offers a recommended section, the majority of the videos are not well-suited to the user’s interests and would often be a waste of time to click and watch. There are also a jumble of buttons, links, and ads on each video page, making for a confusing experience for first-time users of YouTube, which were frequent in the early 2010s. Vine, on the other hand, minimized the confusion by not offering a search bar on the homepage. Instead, the app’s design encourages users to scroll through individual videos in a feed. There is no play or pause button; you either touch to record or scroll to play. If the user liked the video, the app’s algorithm would highlight the video’s media tags and “learn” what the user prefers. Users could also follow the creator for similar videos. If the user did not like the video, then the opportunity cost would only be a mere 6 seconds, making for a quick and efficient “learning” mechanism as well as a lesser feeling of wasting the user’s time.
To analyze Vine as a whole would be largely tedious and broad, so the approach we take for its analysis will be centered on the circuit of culture. This circuit is broken down into five categories of study: production, consumption, identity, representation, and regulation. As implied by a “circuit”, there is no particular order to best navigate the circuit: rather, the concepts are meant to reinforce and meld with each other. Because even the smallest websites and apps have a lot to consider, breaking down Vine into these topics simplifies and directs the discussion in an organized fashion.
For this particular subject, we first dive into production, which concerns the unseen aspects of video production on Vine. Questions to consider would include how videos are produced, who produces these videos, and what tools are available to aid in production. In the case of Vine, production is actually meant to be as simple as possible for the creator, which is a defining feature of the service but also has its own implications.
Next up is consumption, which explores all the aspects to do with video consumption on Vine. How are videos consumed, why are videos consumed this way, and what are the benefits and detriments in this form of consumption? More will be explained later, but for Vine, videos are meant to be watched quickly, which maximizes the rate of content absorption by the audience.
We will then gain insight on Vine’s identity, which refers not only to the image of the service as a brand, but also the identity of its users and prominent content creators. What type of content is Vine known for, and what identity does the audience develop as part of the Vine community? In the past decade of blooming media content, Vine creates a completely unique culture of entertainment of which the most successful media services today still take advantage of.
Representation goes hand-in-hand with identity, but it shifts the perspective of study from the service itself to society as a whole. What does Vine stand for to the community, to non-users, to society? With this particular app, representation is perceived from the scope of its peak as well as the present day.
Lastly, regulation of the service, whether it is restrictions on users, content, or function, must be discussed. This topic is especially important as it brings insight into
why the app died and how the app was affected by the regulations it chose to implement.
Vine is not only an app for recording and stitching short videos, but also a platform for sharing these clips online. Recording the videos is made simple by the app: creators touch the screen to record, let go of the screen to stop recording. This minimalist system simplifies the recording process by removing the complex process of editing from the experience. While this limits creative editing or cool effects, it keeps the basic function of stitching short clips into one video, which is all you really need to make a Vine video. At a mere 6 seconds, videos on Vine seem like no more than GIFs; but as described by Honan, the time constraint of the videos allow for much more saturated content and opportunities for creativity in media. There really isn’t a need for heavy editing anyways, rather the most successful videos are short comedic sketches that focus more on saturated content than complex filters and effects. Vine videos record through the phone camera when the creator touches the device’s screen, allowing for stop-motion clips. The app makes edits for you, stitching your shots together in sequential order with no way to reorder or trim footage. You can’t upload a video from your camera roll or add external audio – it’s ambient sound only. Videos are square and low-definition. And they always loop back on themselves again and again and again. In essence, Vine is a real-time GIF sharing service with sounds. These videos can quickly be shared, saved, and made private through the user-friendly app.
The theme with Vine is simplicity and briefness. Videos are meant to be short, and the feed is meant to be scrolled through frequently so the user can consume media at a rapid pace. With clips about everything one can think of, there’s a video for every kind of person. If a user doesn’t like a particular video, the opportunity cost will only be 6 seconds. If the user enjoys the video, he or she can follow the creator to access more enjoyable videos. A large following and heavy consumption of content on Vine is largely motivated by money. With content creators, forms of income such as sponsorships and advertising revenue is largely dependent on the size of the fanbase and the frequency at which the videos are played. Tam conducts an interview with popular Vine influencers which goes into more detail on how exactly money is made by views, but the general equation for raking in the cash is this: views = money. Of course, with such a large audience accessing such a large database of videos, problems are bound to occur. As described by Michel, a cop was suspended from duty after the department saw his videos and deemed them demeaning to the uniform. It’s clear that not everyone finds content on Vine enjoyable, with some being annoyed or even offended at the humor. Especially with videos on more controversial matters, it is inevitable for backlash to occur from part of the audience.
Types of content on Vine include celebrity clips of everyday life, a genre many well-known figures, including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, took part in. For content creators without a strong fanbase, their videos relied on talent or interesting and humorous elements for success. Big names in this category would be King Bach and Matthew Espinosa. A big motivation for content creators to make it big was the money behind the videos. Mainstream creators almost all have sponsorship deals with media marketing agencies to help promote brands, labels, etc. The user audience of Vine is also very diverse in all aspects but age. Like YouTube and many popular Internet services, Vine caters largely to the younger generation’s interests and personality. Humor is in the form of memes, and language itself is colloquial and casual. Together, this has accumulated into a youth culture connected through the app and the Internet. According to Hermann, the legacy and identity of Vine lives on in successors such as TikTok, Byte, and even YouTube, which recently introduced “shorts” that imitate Vine’s original format. Though Vine itself is dead, the concept it was centered on is still flourishing and mainstream amongst the myriad of entertainment forms in media.
As a service of Twitter originally, Vine was meant to be a function for video sharing on the social media giant. However, as its popularity exploded, it soon made a name for itself as a new, trendier YouTube. Though it’s gone now, Vine’s growth created a unique culture of short, quick videos as a form of entertainment; today, apps like TikTok occupy the niche that Vine created. Perhaps the most attractive feature about the app is the userbase’s openness to content of all forms. People use Vine as an open platform to make unexpected art, document precious moments and participate in memes. It represented a flourishing Internet culture that would come to define a completely new way of social interaction in the form of video sharing. You could go to Vine for clips of current events, cat videos, cooking tutorials, controversial events, or even porn. Vine really represented the place one-stop-shop for content of all kinds in a quick and easy manner. In the present day, Vine is a dearly missed platform from a golden era of flourishing Internet culture and an explosion of creativity online. It represents the app that spearheaded the short-video wave that TikTok now rides on. Though Vine is no longer running, there exists a time capsule of archived Vine content described by Bell where previously registered users can access their saved clips, though these clips cannot be downloaded. Though its death was recent, the constant and rapid fluidity of the Internet means that enough time has passed for a generation to have forgotten the app, or even to have never heard of it in the first place. To the children of today who had no personal connection to Vine, it may represent a relic of the past: perhaps a stepping stone for the modern giants in media like TikTok and YouTube.
Of course, the freedom of creativity does not mean freedom from consequence. A large issue with Vine and a possible reason for its decline was its severe lack of regulation. As a service of Twitter, its guidelines were not very strict to begin with. Honan describes that porn could show up on the “popular” feed at any given moment. This is a basic protection feature Vine lacks, especially considering its population of underage users. Another key issue is the lack of ability to block someone. As a result, trolls were frequent on the app. Though it’s the earliest service of its kind, the lack of basic security implementations is inexcusable. Especially considering today’s standards, regulation is apparent in the majority of social media sites for protection purposes and misinformation prevention. Another point of regulation for Vine is its strict adherence to the 6-second, low editing video format. Arguably a big player in its popularization, this feature of Vine is also its biggest weakness, and one that led to its eventual demise. Failory.com describes the stubbornness of Vine to expand its functions as a key factor in its struggle to keep up with media competitors such as Instagram and TikTok. Especially with the Internet constantly changing, adaptivity is the linchpin to the survival and success of an Internet-based media entertainment service.
Bell, Karissa. 2017. “Don’t Cry, All Your Favorite Vines Will Live on Here.” Mashable. January 21, 2017. https://mashable.com/article/vine-archive-website.
Herrman, John. 2020. “Vine Changed the Internet Forever. How Much Does the Internet Miss It?” The New York Times, February 22, 2020, sec. Style. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/22/style/byte-vine-short-video-apps.html.
Honan, Mat. 2013. “Why Vine’s Going to Grow into Something Huge.” Wired. February 3, 2013. https://www.wired.com/2013/02/why-vines-going-to-grow-into-something-really-huge/.
Michel, Lou. 2016. “‘Angry Cops’ Officer Suspended over Vine Videos Back on Duty.” Police1. March 21, 2016. https://www.police1.com/social-media-for-cops/articles/angry-cops-officer-suspended-over-vine-videos-back-on-duty-diZGJ9KtaGp2q3gN/.
Smith, Christine. “Brief Introduction to Vine History.” Wondershare. Accessed December 5, 2021. https://videoconverter.wondershare.com/convert-video/vine-history.html.
Smith, Dyka. 2020. “What Happened to Vine? Why It Is Died | InoSocial.” Inosocial. November 15, 2020. https://inosocial.com/blog/what-happened-to-vine/.
Tam, Eva. 2015. “How to Turn Vine Videos into Money.” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2015, sec. Digits. https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-DGB-42226.
“Vine FAQs.” n.d. Help.twitter.com. Accessed November 5, 2021. https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/vine-faqs.
“What Happened to Vine and Why Did They Fail? | Failory.” n.d. Www.failory.com. https://www.failory.com/cemetery/vine.