Reblogged from Mashable.com – an insightful op-ed on the #4 app in the App Store. How do you think Vine will affect the social media landscape? – SS
by Chris Taylor
It’s the kind of moment that comes rarely, but tech journalists live for it: a service is launched with little fanfare and receives a sudden, energetic burst of genuine buzz. Developers start remixing it in all kinds of fascinating ways. It’s supremely easy to use, and mobile, so we get hooked.
The technology itself is not new, but it is presented in a new and interesting form. It fosters creative competition. It starts to get traction in our lives.
The last time the tech world could agree this was happening was the launch of Instagram in 2010. We’d seen plenty of photo services before; Flickr had been around for the better part of a decade.
But here was one that was kind of a throwback to instant cameras, kind of something new, supremely social and creative in a quick and easy way.
It also resolutely refused to exist as anything other than an iPhone app. If you wanted to use it, you pulled your phone out of your pocket, took some snapshots and filtered them, or browsed the work of others. The fast-loading stream of Polaroid-like shots was a perfect match for a smartphone screen.
You hoped your gauzy efforts would rack up Likes from friends, of course. Who doesn’t crave that recognition? But you also felt like you were participating in an historic, global effort to document human life, one snap at a time.
In short, Instagram perfectly captured the ineffable shared something that 21st century Internet users have taken to calling “the now.”
Now here comes 2013’s hot contender, another iPhone app: Vine. It’s too early to tell if the service is going to blossom like Instagram did (the service has 90 million active users and counting, two and a half years after launch).
Why Vine Will Thrive: Three Words
One advantage Vine does have in its search for staying power is the enormous benefit of starting out with a major social service, Twitter, as a parent. (Instagram had to prove itself in the wild before it was snapped up by Facebook in a deal originally valued at $1 billion.)
And if anything, Vine is even better at capturing “the now” than Instagram.
Like Twitter, Vine benefits from an inherent limit. The parent company won’t let you transmit more than 140 characters of your brilliance at a time; Vine makes you shoot your video in six seconds or less. Those six seconds don’t have to be consecutive — you just start and stop recording by tapping on the screen — which can lead to all manner of interesting stop-motion animations, such as this heroic example from Mashable‘s own Jeremy Cabalona.
That means Vine is easily understandable, even mockable — as in this animation from the blog Willa’s World:
That’s fine. Instagram was consistently mocked as a purveyor of food photos. Twitter was consistently mocked as a stream of short “what I had for breakfast” updates. Neither stereotype stopped tremendous growth. Indeed, they may well have aided it.
What mattered in each case was that the service was easily summarized and differentiated. You could grok it instantly. You had a reason to try it. And here’s a good rule of thumb: if you can describe what makes a service different in three easy words — “filtered square photos,” perhaps, or “140 character updates,” or “six-second videos” — it has a good shot at taking off.
To put it another way, here’s how top Valley VC Marc Andreessen has described his process for deciding which companies to invest in: “I look for the thing people are laughing at, but is growing like a weed.”
Or, indeed, a vine.
Haven’t We Been Here Before?
Some argue that Cinemagram, or GIF creation tools like it, are better apps than Vine. Cinemagram has more functionality — you can, for example, create a GIF that loops back and forth in time, rather than repeating the way Vine does.
But that doesn’t really matter. Cinemagram and apps like it are riding a wider wave of animated GIFs. They’ve sacrificed differentiation to be part of a web trend. Can you honestly tell whether a GIF was created on Cinemagram? Do you care? Can you make the service sound unique in three words?
Vine videos are short, but they’re noticeably longer than most GIFs. There’s less of that jarring ADD sensation. You can pack a surprising amount of visual information into six seconds. And because it’s in a stream, you’re encouraged to move on to the next one rather than stare at the same video over and over.
GIFs are timeless; part of their appeal is they can be reused in online conversation over and over. Favorite GIFs become memes, and favorite memes become GIFs. But Vine’s appeal is almost the opposite. It’s raw footage, cinema verite. It’s not surprising that the first news Vine, a dolphin trapped in New York harbor, arrived almost immediately.
You can see that most clearly on a service like Vinepeek, which aggregates Vine videos in real time. The results are quotidian, but endlessly fascinating. A guy jumps for joy in a parking lot. A horse grazes in a field. Someone opens a Pop Tart. Someone bowls a strike.
All human (and non-human) life is here. It’s the now, in its purest distilled form.
Is Vine going to keep growing, or will it wilt? Share your predictions in the comments.