“RIP Vine…you had a great run” should be placed on Vine’s tombstone when it finally comes to rest in the coming months. Many people were shocked to hear that Vine’s operations would be be coming to an end in the near future. I especially was blindsided by the news, as Vine was an interesting form of social media to me. With it’s end so near, I figured it’d be a good time to take a deep dive into Vine and see what really went on there.
Vine is a short form video sharing service where users can share six second long looping video clips. The service was founded in June 2012 by three co-founders, Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll. It was then acquired by Twitter in October 2012, just before its official launch, for around thirty million dollars. Vine allows for user’s videos to be constantly published through Vine’s social network and can be shared on other services such as Facebook and Twitter. Vine’s app can also be used to browse through videos posted by other users, along with multiple different ways to categorize them, such as by theme, popularity, and more. While Vine enjoys the support of Twitter, it competes with other short form video sharing platforms such as Instagram and Mobli. As of December 2015 Vine has 200 million active users, but on October 27, 2016, Twitter announced it would discontinue Vine, but keep existing Vines on the website for archival purposes.
The Rise of Vine
In 2013, Vine began allowing users to record clips with their phones’ front-facing cameras, and usage exploded. An ecosystem of young stars sprung up around the service, which evolved into their own kind of live action network. These characters were frequently called “vine stars”. Their was first Zach King, whose eye popping magic tricks earned him 4 million followers and more than 1.4 billion views. Then came Amanda Cerny, whose physical comedy earned more than 2.2 billion views. Finally, Logan Paul whose Vines looped more than 4 billion times, which he parlayed into a series of acting roles, while earning $200,000 to create a single Vine for a brand.
In 2014, Vine was a video platform that was taking regular people and turning them into celebrities. “A Vine’s blink-quick transience, combined with its endless looping, simultaneously squeezes time and stretches it,” Tad Friend of the New Yorker wrote. The app generated countless memes, and grew increasingly self referential over time, so that a single 6 second clip might reference a dozen previous hit Vines. And yet in retrospect it seems clear that 2014 was when Vine peaked. Research firm 7Park Data says 3.64 percent of all Android users opened Vine in August 2014, but today that number has fallen to 0.66 percent. Twitter never officially said how many people used Vine, but once claimed it had an audience of 200 million people on the web.
*So close yet so far :(
What Happened to Vine
So how did a company with seemingly unlimited growth potential and two hundred million users, come to rest in two short years. Former executives say that a major competitive challenged emerged in the form of Instagram, which introduced 15-second video clips in June 2013. With the emergence of stable competition, Vine failed to differentiate itself from its competitors. Instagram courted celebrities with longer videos, and eventually bumped it’s time limit to a more flexible 60 seconds. (Vines didn’t break the 6-second barrier until earlier this year, and its extended videos never caught on.) Instagram also began promoting celebrity accounts in its popular “explore” tab, bringing them attention that Vine found difficult to match. Marketers began shifting their money away from Vine, and stars followed.
At the management level, Vine was rarely stable for long. Hofmann quit in 2014 to pursue a new startup. Kroll followed him out the door later that year. Twitter laid off Yusupov, who was Vine’s creative director, as part of last year’s mass layoffs. Jason Toff took over Vine in 2014 and led it for two years before quitting this year to work on virtual reality projects at Google. Hannah Donovan became general manager in March after working at a series of music startups. Her lack of previous experience running a company led many to believe that it might be the beginning of the end.
Years of executive churn likely contributed to Vine’s failure to make money. For a while, brands were happy to pay Vine stars directly to make ads and share them to their millions of followers. But, after Snapchat and Instagram grew into hundreds of millions of daily users, marketers’ interest in Vine dropped significantly.
The Final Nail in the Coffin
This year, Twitter executives were discussing ways to integrate Twitter’s various video offerings in their app. In June, the company held discussions about absorbing Vine into Twitter’s flagship app. To Vine employees, those discussions served as evidence that Twitter never valued Vine as a standalone property the way its audience did. But, no Vine integration ever materialized, and this summer top Vine executives began heading for the exits. Twitter explored selling the app, but it never found a buyer. The stars who grew famous on Vine continued posting their work on other platforms, and never came back to their home. With the continued exit of said vine stars, along with the top executives Vine was in an official downward spiral. Vine’s future looked bleak to begin with, and it was only a matter of time before the doors of Vine headquarters would be closed permanently, and that day is soon to come.
“RIP Vine, may she rest in peace.” -Douglas Rossi, October 29, 2016.