Made You Look: Vine's First Year Through the Eyes of Its Biggest Stars

Vine turns a year old today: here's the first year through the people who have made it the place to be.

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Image via Complex Original
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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 shotsbreaking 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.

Then and Now: How Their Lives Have Changed Since Vine Stardom

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Making the Vine

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RUDY: Ideas are always flowing in my crazy head; some musical, others comedic, etc. If the idea isn't organic, I won't pursue it, which is why I sometimes go days without posting anything. Some feel the need to post something every day, or bombard the platform with their content. I respect the valid method, but it's just not the way I do it.

MAX: It’s difficult and frustrating at times, especially when it takes over two hours just to record one Vine. A lot of the ideas just come to mind for me.

BRITTANY: My mind is constantly spinning and I just try to grab ideas where I can. Some days I'll think of 20 ideas and write them down to do later, and other days I will have no ideas. It just depends on how inspired I am.

BRANDON: My ideas come to me when I'm most relaxed. When you TRY to think of a funny idea, typically it won't be as funny as you want. So I mainly get all my ideas when hanging with friends playing video games, when my brain is most at ease. Ideas that are very complex can sometimes be very hard to pull off. The longest shoot I've ever had for a Vine lasted five hours.

JERRY: I’m just being myself. If something comes to my head, I pull out my phone and film—my brain doesn’t sleep!

COMPLEX: Brittany, you posted Vines recently where you snatched a dude's fries right off of his table, and took another guy's shopping cart while he was on the phone. I’ve always been interested in what happened afterward. What’s it like going out on a limb during those spontaneous Vines, anything ever backfire?

BRITTANY: People get initially upset with me but then I win them over afterwards with my charm (aka: some money.)

COMPLEX: You were banned from Target a while back when you went on a Vining spree, have you snuck your way back in since then?

BRITTANY: Haha! Yes, my dad forced me to go back in with him about three months after I was banned, and security came right up to us and asked us to leave, but my dad said, "I'm her father, I will make sure she doesn't Vine while she is in here, we're just shopping." And they let us shop! My dad is a badass!

Collaborating With the Vine Community

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BRITTANY: It's fun collaborating with other Viners, I think there are a lot of talented people on the platform, too many to mention, and I don't want to pick favorites because almost all of the top people are my friends.

MAX: It’s pretty awesome! Viners I used watch when I had only a few hundred followers I collab with and talk to on a daily basis.

JERRY: Collabs are a great experience, getting to meet new people who have the same passion as you is awesome.

RUDY: I must say, meeting all of the other influencers on the platform has really been an occurrence to embrace. Naturally, we all linked up as we were discovering each other on the platform, and some of these passionate individuals who have become known as "Viners" have also become my closest friends. After all, whether a sense of competition is an aspect to recognize or not, we're all in this together.

The first time that me and a few other influencers decided to have one of the first official "Vine Meet-ups" in New York, really took us all by surprise. We were curious to see how well the online fan-base translated into real life. With that, we organized this event and were all absolutely stunned to see the amount of people, many of which traveled extensively, just to see us. I think that's when it really hit me. It's when I realized that the exciting momentum wasn't just virtual; it was very real.

BRANDON: Collaborating is always great, because you and that other person are equally as insane for this app. I'd have to say my favorite people to collab with are Jason Nash and Klarity. They are brilliant, creative minds and actors.

[Things backfired] once. Long story short, a few other Viners and myself were filming a Vine with a fake gun and we almost got arrested. Our fault really, because the gun had no red tape at the end to tell if it was fake. We were being REALLY dumb. 

BRITTANY: My favorite Vine is King Bach's where he had the guy Jigsaw from Saw asking him to play a game, and then he said, "Raise this baby" and Bach was like, "That's not a game ni**a that's life!" It was hilarious.

The Birth of Characters and Trends: Brittany's Alter Egos, #SmackCam, and The Lion King

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COMPLEX: Brittany, you have some of the funniest and diverse characters of anyone on Vine. How did you come up with characters like Natalie Nature and Martha, and do they all share a little bit of the real you?

BRITTANY: That's really nice of you to say. I'm just super weird in the brain. I'm probably one of the most paranoid, OCD people on this planet. I think A LOT, too much, and my mind goes to some strange places sometimes. I write my bizarre thoughts and ideas down and turn them into people and characters. All of my characters are a part of me, or stem from different parts of my personality. If someone found the notes section in my phone they'd probably have me committed.

COMPLEX: Rudy, your Lion King Vines were one of the first I saw featured on the 10 o'clock news.

RUDY: The Lion King idea was born in one of my best friend's basements, over a year ago. Me, Dan Diliberti (also a Vine influencer), and a few other friends from my hometown in New Jersey, were simply goofing around. Dan and I collaboratively came up with this concept of a short musical number, and before we knew it, we had created a viral six-second video that, to us, was plain silly. It wasn't until a few months later that we decided to try the same skit in a public place. I chose a supermarket because one of the refrigerators struck me as a great place to make my singing entry from. The employees were surprisingly okay with it. They just chuckled and shook their heads.

COMPLEX: Max talked to Complex last July about the Smack Cam trend. He explained how his cousin originally gave him the idea, but how it became frightening when boys starting doing it to girls. Some time has passed, what are your thoughts on the trend now? I’m interested in what it was like for you two to watch it spread across Vine as one of the original trends on the social network.

MAX: The Smack Cam trend has died down a lot since the summer has ended, and I haven’t even done one since summer, but I still do get tagged in a bunch of Smack Cams daily. It was very surprising to see how big and fast it grew around the world, and I’m still shocked that smacking people with food can become so huge.

COMPLEX: People love the strangest things sometimes.

JERRY: The Smack Cam trend was one of the greatest trends to come out. It did have its downs, but it had many ups, and it was all for fun. It was definitely amazing to know that something we did for fun blew up and people picked up on it worldwide.

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Vine Versus Instagram and YouTube

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BRITTANY: I knew Instagram Video wasn't going to affect Vine. They were just trying to do too much. People don't go on Instagram to watch videos, they go for the pictures and to take selfies. Also, without the looping factor, Instagram video didn't stand a chance against Vine. The video looping is what makes everything so extra funny.

MAX: Instagram VIdeo doesn’t give the same feeling Vine gives to me. It doesn’t loop, recording isn’t as smooth, and six second is perfect because my attention span is only six seconds. I started on Vine and don’t see myself moving. One of the biggest things about Vine is that it's all videos.

BRITTANY: I don't even have a million followers on Insta; people like different things. I mean, people on both platforms like comedy but they're fickle about it. I like Insta more for pictures than video. I mean, I'm a goof so of course I do goofy shit on there, but I feel like people take to Vine more for getting a laugh.

JERRY: Vine is only six seconds, which means more creativity, more fun, and more skill packed into it. Fifteen seconds isn’t as effective, and Vine gets straight to the point. Vine is superior!

JERRY: Vine is more active for me, Instagram isn’t such a big part of my life in the way Vine is.

BRANDON: Vine is unique to me because it is not simply "Instagram, but with video.” It's a new platform for insanely creative people to express themselves. I would describe Vine culture as more of a community. I've met many of the top Viners and have done collaborations with them, and I could tell you there’s this fiery passion that gets going when making a six second film. It's crazy and most of us know it is, but we absolutely adore it.

I think followers on all social media platforms are relatively the same, it's just the platform that you shine brightest at. If you're a fantastic photographer, naturally, you'd gain more followers on Instagram than YouTube. Not saying that people can't branch out and be good at more than one thing, but typically people want to see you where you're best at.

RUDY: At no point did I think that Instagram's video installation would override Vine's. From the beginning I, and many others, anticipated that they would coexist They're very different platforms. For one, the six vs. fifteen-second time difference is the most prominent. More time undeniably allows for a very different kind of storytelling, but the unique nature of Vine's six-second, looping structure is hard to obliterate. For an artist like me, Instagram and its updates have only been beneficial. For instance, I tell 6-second, looping stories on Vine (some comedic, others artistic), and leave Instagram to showcase my longer-form music and film content. As far as my following goes, I've sure there are mutual users that follow me on both Vine and Instagram, but I'm learning that the bulk of the users on each platform are very different from each other. After all, we all aspire to do different things, and our interests vary from each other significantly; some people may enjoy my 15-second piano compositions on Instagram, others may prefer to watch my 6-second comedic stories on Vine, and others may simply enjoy both (or none at all). To each their own.

The Future of the App: What Viners Would Like to See

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BRITTANY: I'd like to see views added. I'm sure if Vine started showing views, it would blow YouTube out of the water.

COMPLEX: The views would be astronomical. "Yeah, but that loop though." 

MAX: I’d love the option to upload videos directly to the app, or maybe a few features to edit stuff into Vines—like music and sound effects.

JERRY: I think the app is pretty much perfect. It all comes down to people's content.

RUDY: I can't complain about Vine' features and updates. They seem to really work well for all of us. If there's anything that can use some improvement, however, it's the existence of "revine teams" (which Vine itself is not at fault of.) Ever since the "revine" came into the picture, teams of users have been formed to promote each other's pages. Rather than using the "revine" feature to promote a video that you are truly passionate about, a lot of the users are using it for the wrong reason: to grow in an inorganic way.

I receive various emails from random users saying something like, "I'm really trying to be Vine famous, and I heard that all big Viners got to where they are now because someone big revined them. I would really appreciate it if you revined me so that I can be famous too." Nothing disappoints me more than reading emails like that. Those users are missing the point. The idea of Vine or any other creative platform, is to do something that you're genuinely passionate about; something creative, fun, and organic. "Fame" should never be a driving force. It surely wasn't for me, or any other top influencer on the platform. Not to mention, the "revine" feature didn't even exist when we first started making these videos. Every follower I gained and every "like" I received was organic, not forced. I was doing on Vine what I have always done: create. If I "revine" one of your Vine posts, you won't get "Vine famous.” That's not how it works. In my opinion, in order to succeed in anything, you have to find what you're truly passionate about, and then keep doing it over and over.

BRANDON: Personally, nothing. Many would like Vine to introduce special FX but I believe that’s dumb. Vine is special because of the creativity that is sparked by limitations in time and resources, that’s what separates it from a more highly produced sites like YouTube. Also, I'm just a huge fan of practical effects. The Evil Dead 2 is one of my favorite films for that reason.

The Fans

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Life After Six Seconds: What They Do Outside of Vine

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MAX: I’m just a typical guy who keeps to himself, listens to music, watches movies, and loves sports. The future is only beginning. You'll see what I have coming up.

BRITTANY: I hope to move into TV and film. I love Vine and will always Vine as long as it exists, but it would be nice to delve back into my original outlets (laying on my couch eating chips and watching The View.)

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JERRY: Vine, gym, and chilling is my life, my future goal is to be in stage or on screen entertaining millions!

BRANDON: My other passions would have to be writing, acting, and playing video games. My hopes for the future are to become a legitimate actor and start working in the film industry. I don't know if I’m any good at acting, and would love to learn techniques from those who are professionals at it.

COMPLEX: Rudy, you feature your mother a lot in your Vines. How does she handle it?

RUDY: Mi madre! She truly is the best sport. I would be lying if I told you she didn't often get aggravated, as it shows through the posts, but overall she is an active user and true advocate of the Vine platform. She's undoubtedly my biggest supporter, and although I don't think she realized the impact of some of our collaborations at first, she definitely does now. I mean, the woman can't go to the mall without getting approached by dozens of fans. At that point, one realizes just how effective their roles in these short videos have really been.

The Last Words to Close Out Year One

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