As Twitter launched their new 6-second video service Vine globally on Friday, early adopters were treated to the familiar sensation of having turned up to a party a little too early; those who are there now, though, are ecstatic.
Vines themselves are tiny looped snippets of video that remind you at once of a high-brow art installation and an animal gif emailed to you by a friend; less than a week in, the service is buzzing with puppies, fruit, and staged magic tricks using the app’s record-pause-record again system to turn children into princesses or make objects disappear and reappear at a click of the fingers.
The culture of the gif looms large, but elsewhere, there are odd-looking stop motions, paced unusually because the stop isn’t actually stopped and is really a very short video clip, and short recipes of foods you would never be able to make in real life. Desperate to leverage the audience-building potential of a new service poised for hockey stick growth, many users are labelling their vines with all of a pre-specified set of hashtags that relate to categories hard-coded into the app (#magic, #nyc, #pets), so that new users browsing for the first time will see (and follow) their account.
Vine feels revolutionary. It’s the culmination of many trends that are now so established they’re not trends at all - mobile, video, mobile phone photography in the style of Instagram - and yet in its simplicity is more than the sum of its parts. Running through it are visual references to other now ubiquitous apps (Instagram, chiefly), but it nonetheless manages to feel like something new; in the invention of the ‘Vine’ it has its own version of the tweet, or the Like - a new medium of interaction as well as a platform to capture and deliver it.
In a conversation with the BBC college of journalism’s Marc Blank-Settle on Twitter last weekend (he’d noticed the focus was off on my first post) I said that Vine feels more like it will displace pictures than video, but that might be premature. As Marc noted later, the focus issues were not just confined to my experience - and from a journalism perspective, without more editing tools or the ability to add links it's hard to see it gaining the usage among media organisations that Twitter has managed.
Perhaps by choice and perhaps because of the tech world's emergent “launch early and iterate often” philosophy, it’s also missing numerous features - Android, iPad, vertical filming and a web interface to name a few - that the average startup would be dragged through the mud by users and investors for neglecting.
Poised for greatness
It’s had its early hiccups too - yesterday, there was a degree of confected outrage over a pornographic clip featured accidentally as an “Editor’s Pick” (some savvy California comedian must surely have prepared, for his next Silicon Valley gig, the line “6 seconds? That’s my kind of porn”), and on its first day users reported some sketchy account-swapping possibilities around sharing that were quickly sorted out.
None of that is of any consequence; even just through it’s new position as Twitter’s de facto video-sharing function it would be around for good, but coupled with the form and its execution it feels like it’s a worthwhile medium and one poised for greatness. If you haven’t tried it already (and have access to an iPhone) give it a go now.