Vine: the 6-second Instagram

I stated on Friday that Vine, Twitter’s new video sharing app, has absolutely nothing to do with the reader’s favourite ‘info-chalet’—TheVine. But it does not concern us in the slightest if we should garner any extra ‘click-through’ from poor souls who can’t discern the difference (do click our ads, fools).

Vine is an iPhone app that records 6 seconds of video, edited and looped as you record. I use the term edited loosely here as you merely hold your finger on the video’s preview to begin recording and release it to stop recording. With this flat learning curve, it’s an cinch to film anything in increments. The only rule is that you have a maximum of 6 seconds to play with.

Vine appears to be the evolution of the animated GIF. They’re full motion video with audio, but generally have that GIF feel.

It’s natural to compare Vine directly with Instagram. They have massive social networks for parents; have simple interfaces; contain their own galleries and the inherent constraints of their formats force users to be creative in unexpected ways.

One of the points where they do diverge is porn. You can post almost anything you want on Twitter and X-rated porn is one of those things. Facebook moderators, on the other hand, will strike down breastfeeding mothers. In the same way, you can flash 6 seconds of gash on Vine, whilst Instagram stays squeaky clean.

On that note human error was blamed yesterday when Vine’s editor accidentally flagged pornographic material as an ‘Editor’s Pick.’ Apple promptly removed Vine from its featured apps section. Twitter pulled the image and apologised, but the app still isn’t back in Apple’s featured apps at the time of writing (and probably won’t ever return).

Below: My third Vine post shows my best work yet—perhaps I look like I actually enjoy writing… in my bourgeois, inner-Melbourne worker’s cottage. I also have a video of my dog ‘tending to her needs’—add me?

Is Vine the next $1 billion media app? Reviews elsewhere are mixed but the consensus is that no one wants to record videos and even if they do—what do they record? Personally, I can see some potential for it—condensed story telling; shameless self-promotion; amateur porn (on Tumblr); 6-second movie trailers and advertising (this is a given). So 6-seconds is a long enough time to get a story across, as these post show:

Here’s a small company’s ad (no affiliation with TheVine):

A multinational’s ad (def. no affiliation with TheVine):

An Italian politician:

An NBC newsbyte:

And this WTF moment From Tyra Banks:


All it will take is for a few ‘Vines’ to go viral and Twitter might have an Instagram on its hands. Remember that Instagram took 2 years of exponential growth for it to get where it is today (though its numbers really exploded when Facebook picked it up).

The biggest limitation that Vine faces is that it’s video—people are still awkward on camera—it’s hard to get the right duck faced selfies whilst your subjects find it harder to strike that spontaneous look. Meanwhile, Vine’s movie files are significantly larger than the JPEGs used by Instagram, thereby creating a two-fold problem: as you scroll through your Vine’s feed, videos play automatically or at least they’re supposed to. Using an iPhone 5 on both fast Wi-Fi at home and Telstra LTE yielded mixed cache times, but on the whole it wasn’t the flawless experience Twitter is hoping for. I spent a lot of time waiting. The other issue is that Vine could adversely impact users with smaller and/or more expensive data plans.

There’s one more difference between Vine and Instagram that I want to point out—the interface. Most of Vine’s key controls are hidden in a drop down menu and its record button is found at the top right of the screen, but only from the home page—all of Instagram’s are persistent. There’s nothing particularly wrong about how Vine’s interface works, but Instagram feels a lot more open, its community is more visible and that shutter button is always ready, no matter what you’re doing in the app.

Are we ready for passive consumption video that isn’t YouTube? Most of us probably aren't, but you could have said that about smartphones 6 years ago. I’d like to see Vine take off, but if it does stick around, we’re probably going to see a few fundamental changes in how it hangs together.

profile of Chuck Kolyvas