Few social networks were as timely and instantly successful as Vine, Twitter’s other video sharing service, which debuted in June 2012. Vine quickly established itself as a cultural phenomenon during that fateful summer, and it remained a venue of note for the ongoing video revolution that has gripped the media industry.
While not strictly surprising news to anyone familiar with Twitter’s uphill battle for relevance and growth, the shuttering of Vine is an unfortunate example of missed opportunity made tragic by Vine’s initially surging popularity.
This is the way of things, of course. But it’s hard to ignore the impact Twitter’s handling of Vine must have had on its ultimate demise.
Here, we turn back the pages to try to discern where and when the once novel video sharing platform went wrong.
Lack of audience ownership
Twitter has long been the backbone of the urban meme machine. Colloquially known as “black Twitter,” it wasn’t the least bit surprising to see that—upon its acquisition and subsequent launch—many of the earliest adopters of Vine were these urban teens who had spent the last several years engaged in satirization of pop culture using pithy texts. Now, they had pithy videos.
For a time, content flourished on the network. Vine became a viable discovery tool for new music in the hip-hop space, and was instrumental in the dethronement of terrestrial radio. Dozens of “Vine stars” like King Bach and DC Young Fly have grown beyond the network into prominent web personas, and even Hollywood success. With it’s weekly Vine compilation videos, Worldstar Hip-Hop—the urban YouTube, so to speak— was instrumental in propelling the virality of much of the content on Vine.
Yet, for all of this, neither Vine nor Twitter made any serious attempts to support this segment of the userbase. Vine never officially partnered with Worldstar, never launched a monetization vehicle within its platform, never explored options for streaming music. Nothing.
Slow reaction to the market
Vine launched at the perfect time. Many companies and brands were shifting focus toward video, and short-form video as a format was almost non-existent. When Vine debuted, it seemed everyone was intensely interested in its revolutionary burst video format. Advertisers were no doubt beating down the doors (more on that later).
Unfortunately, Vine’s largest competitor at the time, Instagram, had just been acquired by Facebook, and quickly implemented its own micro-video capabilities. To make matters worse, Snapchat, one of the more niche platforms at the time, was quickly gaining its own solid audience, as young people fled their family members on Facebook.
Vine was sluggish in its response to these developments, if it responded at all.
While still in the throes of its success, Vine soon gained a competitor from the most unlikely of places: its parent company, Twitter. Twitter launched its own video playback capabilities in early 2015, and Vine’s use case disappeared almost overnight.
Shortly after this, another phase in mobile video development was beginning to gain mainstream traction, live streaming. The two services at the center of this push, Meerkat and Periscope, were uncoiling from a brief, but intense struggle for market share. It seemed Periscope was to become the favored brand, so Twitter bought it. It was a brilliant bit of forecasting, as live streaming has become one of the biggest media trends of the day today. But taken in context of Twitter’s proprietary video service, it was yet another carrion call for Vine.
Lack of commercial viability
Vine was always a bit of a hard sell. The idea—micro, highly shareable videos—was solid enough, but Twitter never provided brands with a means to effectively advertise on the network, especially not at any meaningful scale. Even if they did, the analytics and reporting that was growing increasingly sophisticated on platforms like Facebook and YouTube never measured up on Vine.
Sponsored content, however, was strong on the platform. But, much in the same way that Vine failed to capitalize on its audience, the company was slow to offer sponsorship solutions in app. Instead, a shell industry evolved around branded Vines—an industry Vine had no real way of leveraging.
(Too) Rapid growth
The advent of short, GIF-like videos with sound was so novel and exciting that Vine was essentially a hit right out the gate. In many ways though, Vine was too popular.
If mismanagement and misunderstanding of its own potential were the ultimate undoing of the service, those failings likely stemmed from its own paralyzing popularity. Vine never really had a chance to mature with its audience. It has, in effect, risen and fallen as quickly as the memes that made it popular in the first place.