I loved Vine. It was one of the most fun products in the App Store, and we’re all losing something with its demise. I don’t care if you uninstalled two years ago. Vines themselves, and the cultural trends that originated there, reached way more people than their MAU numbers would indicate. I’m not going to try to write an adequate post-mortem, as others have already done that — but I want to look back to Vine’s first day.
Here’s how Dom Hoffman, a Vine co-founder, introduced Vine in a blog post on January 24, 2013:
Today we’re launching Vine, a new mobile service that lets you create and share beautiful, short looping videos. With Vine, capturing life in motion is fun and easy.
Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.
We’re also happy to share the news that Vine has been acquired by Twitter. Our companies share similar values and goals; like Twitter, we want to make it easier for people to come together to share and discover what’s happening in the world. We also believe constraint inspires creativity, whether it’s through a 140-character Tweet or a six-second video.
Nothing about comedy, creativity, or entertainment. This little part about what Vines are is what really caught my eye:
They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life.
Hmm. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Snapchat Stories were introduced later that year, on October 3, 2013. Was that moment the beginning of the end for Vine?
It wasn’t long before produced, six second skits started ruling Vine, and those quirky little windows into peoples’ lives started closing. And sure, Vine’s numbers kept going up. For a while.
This isn’t the first instance of a community forming around an app and changing the course of the product through natural usage. In fact, it’s often a sign that whatever you’re doing is working.
But it’s interesting to think about what would’ve happened if Vine didn’t let go of their original vision so quickly.
What if they had copied Snapchat Stories? They could’ve combined their easy-to-use creation tools with Stories, a low-pressure video medium, to give people an easier way to share. And Vines as we know them would’ve continued to live on — in fact, they would probably be supercharged by Vine Stories, as you’d be able to pick and choose clips that would be entertaining to a wider audience.
And by the way: if they had gone all-in on the creator class, that would’ve been cool. But they didn’t really do that. No longer videos (until recently), no real monetization options, no real progress on the messaging feature, etc.
Instead, they sort of…stayed the course. Didn’t rock the boat. The Vine of today looks very similar to the Vine of a few years ago. Can’t say the same thing about Snapchat or Instagram.
The talented, weird, hilarious creators that populated Vine put it on the cultural map, but they also made it sort of intimidating for “regular” people to make Vines.
Vine Stories would’ve given the app another dimension.
I leave you with two notes:
*No, Instagram is not a viable Vine replacement. Vine stars may have huge followings on Instagram, but they couldn’t have built those followings there organically…they had to start on Vine. Instagram is about lifestyle. Vine was about creativity.
*Also: Vine deserves a big shoutout for a stroke of UI genius: there was no record button — you just had to tap and hold the picture on the screen to record, and let up to stop recording. Sounds like a no-brainer now, but it was a brilliant, elegant innovation at the time.
RIP Vine (2013–2016)