Seven months ago, we buried Vine.
When Instagram announced in June of last year that it was launching its own video feature that let users record more than twice as long as they could on Vine, people jumped on social media to pull off their best House, M.D. impressions: they quickly pulled the plug on what they thought was left of the app’s short life, and laughed while doing it. Headlines like “Vine Gets Insta-Slammed” and “Twitter’s Vine Has Withered” seemed like they were just seconds away from being published. In just under the half hour it took Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom to finish his announcement, Vine went from the social network sweetheart to its laughing stock. Vine-themed memes and ironic tweets bashing Vine popped up in news feeds everywhere. Bigger is better, as the saying goes. In this case, filtered and longer was better, and was poised to snatch the micro-video throne.
So we thought.
Though we rushed to bury Vine then, the app was far from its last breath.
More than anything, Vine owes its popularity to the creative people who use it. While Instagram has upwards of 150 million users to Vine’s 40 million (as of last year), Vine has a collection of personalities that utilize their six seconds to create compelling stories that are funny, artistic, or at its essence, wonderfully human.
Today, Vine celebrates its one year anniversary—stronger and larger than it was then. If there's ever a time to turn our lenses from ourselves and focus it on Vine, we’ll see a journey of composure and maturation, in an industry where "death" is always a monetization misstep away. It’s no secret that startups face a survival-of-the-fittest environment in Silicon Valley, and those companies that can strike a balance of having a unique product with a solid business plan are few and far between. For instance, when Vine launched a year ago today, its main competitors were Viddy and SocialCam. Viddy sold last week for just $15 million after posting a $370 million valuation less than two years ago. SocialCam is still around, but for having more than a two year head start on Vine, it’s far from where it had the chance to be. Of course, Vine being under the leadership of Twitter helps, but it doesn’t guarantee success in the least bit.
When Instagram Video arrived just five months after its launch, Vine countered by enhancing its experience instead of changing its course, and went straight into the eye of the storm. Rather than taking on Instagram at its own game, the company kept its video limit to six seconds, but made filming during those six seconds a richer and easier experience. Vine redesigned their editing features to include the saving and deletion of clips, and a “ghost” option that let users realign clips with the previous one. These were small changes that added to the whole of what Vine set out to do.
"People say that six seconds isn’t long enough to tell a story,” said Vine co-founder Rus Yusupov. “But if you do three two-second cuts, you’ve got a beginning, a middle, and an end."
The essence of Vine's appeal lies in its stories.
Ernest Hemingway purportedly started a genre called flash fiction when he wrote this six-word story on a napkin to win a bet: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Like Yusupov said of the potential of Vine’s videos, Hemingway used six words to tell a story, and Vine users have mastered the six second story.
One of Complex’s biggest articles last year featured Terrio, the hilarious first-grader we said “saved Vine.” For what it’s worth, it’s absolutely true. Terrio did help save Vine—but he wasn’t alone in carrying the network on his young shoulders. More than anything, Vine owes its popularity to the creative people who use it. While Instagram has upwards of 150 million users to Vine’s 40 million (as of last year), Vine has a collection of personalities that utilize their six seconds to create compelling stories that are funny, artistic, or at its essence, wonderfully human. Even if 2013 is remembered as the year of the selfie, thanks to Vine there was #SmackCam, BatDad, BatKid, trick shots, breaking news, Ryan Gosling eating cereal, and the comeback of an old song.
For Vine's birthday, we talked to some of its biggest stars. Brittany Furlan, the reigning queen of Vine with an insane 4.7 million followers on the platform. We also spoke to Brandon Calvillo, the cool Californian with 2.1 million followers; Rudy Mancuso, the multitalented Viner who's in touch with his wild side; and the originators of one of Vine's first, and perhaps still it's biggest, trends: Smack Cam's Max Jr. and Jerry Purpdrank. These Viners offered insight into the past year and how Vine has affected their lives.
So, before Vine’s newest chapter begins and its first chapter officially closes, let’s loop it back to the beginning.