Before the days of TikTok and Snapchat, there was Vine. It was an online phenomenon that pushed the limits of creativity through its restrictions of time. It was the social media platform manifestation of the Internet challenge—before the Internet challenge was a thing.
So, whatever happened to Vine? Why was Vine a thing? How did Vine work? And why did Vine ultimately fail?
What is Vine?
Vine was a short-form video hosting service that allowed users to share six-minute, looping video clips. Vine was founded in June 2012 by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll and acquired by Twitter in October 2012 for $30 million. It launched as a free app in 2013, first for iOS, then for Android and then for Windows devices by mid-November.
Why Vine Was a Thing
Vine’s founders envisioned the video loop app as a way for users to capture casual six-second moments in their lives and share them with friends. This was their pitch to Twitter, who saw the video creation company as the perfect pairing to their microblogging social media platform.
Users did not carry out this vision. Instead, video creators took the six-second limitation as a creative challenge. And this creative experimentation happened as early as its beta testing phase and continued to carry on throughout its popularity as a cultural phenomenon.
Keep in mind, this was back in the day when GIFs had brand-new, explosive popularity. Vine essentially provided a platform that allowed users to create their own GIFs with audio that played on a loop.
This was also around the time when becoming famous through social media was a new-ish concept. This was not just another platform that allowed everyday users a chance to gain millions of views and followers (and, for the ultra-successful users, a chance at million-dollar contracts). It was an app that allowed users to further showcase their creativity and talents through video—even if for six seconds.
How Did Vine Work?
Users would open the Vine app on their mobile device before recording short video clips up to six minutes in length (called vines) through its in-app camera. Here’s the catch—the camera only recorded while the screen was touched, pushing users to get creative with their editing techniques.
Posting a vine happened through the app and could then be shared on other social media platforms at the time, such as Twitter and Facebook. Upon posting, users could track the success of their vines by its loop count (how many times the vine was viewed). Vines published by other users could be viewed through the app.
In later releases, users had access to additional features including grid and ghost image tools for the in-app camera, curated channels, trending topics and users, protected posts and allowance to revine videos on personal stream (like retweeting on Twitter or sharing on Facebook).
Why Vine Failed
As beloved as Vine was during its years of popularity, a compilation of business decisions led it to its inevitable demise. So if you’re wondering whatever happened to Vine, you can credit these reasons for not maintaining its relevancy today.
No Stability at the Top
Hofmann left in 2014 to launch social media platform Peach. Soon after, Kroll was let go for poor management and allegations of sexual abuse at the workplace. Yusupov left in 2015 once Vine was deprioritized by Twitter.
Jason Toff oversaw Vine in 2014 only to leave it two years later to work at Google. Hannah Donovan then took over in May 2016, just months before Twitter shut down Vine for good.
A company cannot make great strides without a consistency in leadership. And when Vine executive roles played out like a game of musical chairs during its time with Twitter, there wasn’t much hope for it to last beyond its popularity.
Lack of Features & Upgrades
Vine was so successful at the time that Instagram and Snapchat introduced short video as a feature within their platforms. Vine’s entire model relied on six-second video, while Instagram and Snapchat extended the length to 10 seconds. As time went on, Instagram and Snapchat continued to extend the length of its video feature in response to user feedback while Vine held tightly to its six-second restriction.
Vine’s competitions continued to innovate with their updated, upgraded features, providing a refreshed experience on their platform for their users over the years. Vine, for the most part, maintained its original model and features without much change to their platform. This became stale for users who chose to opt out for other video-enabled social media platforms.
Too Much Dependence on Creators
An app like Vine relies on its creators to provide new vines and its users to open the app to view these vines. This means that if professional Viners don’t post frequently, users have less of a reason to come back to the app. And if users don’t visit the app, there is no reason for the app to exist.
While competitors like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube cater to professional creators, they also encourage brands, business and amateur users to create material on their platforms where they can post, like and share. This diversification allows these social platforms to survive if their professional creators leave the platform.
That wasn’t the case for Vine. Instead, Vine structured its business model mostly around professional creators. Vine felt it hard when most of their professional Viners left Vine in order to establish their brand on Instagram, Snapchat and/or YouTube.
The End of Vine
Twitter announced on October 27, 2016 that it would disable any new uploads to Vine while continuing to support viewing and downloads on its app. Twitter then launched an Internet archive of all Vine videos on January 20, 2017 which was soon discontinued for good in 2019.
You may think this is the end of Vine’s story. But just like StumbleUpon, some social media platforms try to live on beyond their initial success.
Whatever happened to Vine? Well, it eventually become something else—Byte.
Vine founder Hofmann announced in 2017 that he would carry on Vine through its successor V2. By mid-2018, he announced on the V2 community forums that his vision was to be put on the back burner, at least for the time being. By the end of 2018, Hofmann confirmed that V2 would be now called Byte. Throughout 2019, Byte underwent a closed beta period with community members and it officially launched on both iOS and Android on January 24, 2020.
What is Byte? Think of Byte like an updated Vine. Byte allows users to post videos between two and eight seconds in length. Videos can be recorded either through the app or uploaded to the app from their recording device. Users can still watch videos created by other Viners and can share vines in their feed by—you guessed it—rebyting it.
So, whatever happened to Vine? Some would say that Vine never died but was reskinned for the 2020s. Others would argue that, like a phoenix, it crashed and burned into the flames before rising up as strong competition for TikTok. Either way, we may see Byte’s future may play out like a continuous loop—from start to end, then back at the start again.