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Vine Was Too Pure for This World

R.I.P., gone too soon

Vine/Ringer GIF

Here lies our deeply beloved Vine, a four-year-old video platform that was too perfect for the internet. The app was pronounced dead at approximately 12:10 p.m. ET this afternoon, via the traditional means for putting down a withering social network: a surreptitious and brief Medium post. Cause of death: lack of money.

Vine deserves a eulogy much more heartfelt than a corporate blog. Its format — a feed of six-second, continuously looping clips — appealed first and foremost to the native internet dweller, a demographic that remains unimpressed by the high-production-value, two-minute “video content” that Big Social is serving up today. Vine’s looping feature wedged it between the GIF and the video, creating a unique category that excelled at highlighting the absurdity of humanity in mesmerizing ways. (I’m looking at you, first-debate Scott Walker.)

If videos are meals and GIFs are Pixy Stix bumps, Vines were the internet’s snacks. A Vine’s length is guaranteed to be low-commitment and easily digestible — whether you happened upon a spectacular pool trick or a 12-year-old who has really found her lane. The same way you can suddenly find yourself among a pile of cookie crumbs halfway through an entire package of Oreos, you can also emerge from a seemingly endless stream of tabs, wondering how many loops you really went through in an evening.

The most exciting thing about Vine was the utter possibility of it, like smashing open a piñata and being showered by hundreds of satisfying candies with flavors of mysterious origin. It nursed many memes where Instagram and YouTube fell short, most famously “what are thooose” and “iridocyclitis kid.” And there are hundreds of Vine genres and subgenres: pop culture mashups, physical human feats, puzzles, Ryan Gosling refusing to eat cereal, politicians being subhuman, vaping, faith-restoring sports moments, various animals/objects/people moving to Ginuwine’s “Pony,” and — probably most fascinating — teens. I remember feeling particularly old when, sometime last year, I stumbled upon a Vine account that was dedicated to rating other Vine accounts. Of all the millions of contextless entries that surfaced on Vine from across the globe, the only requirement was to tell a story (or a non-story, whatever, it didn’t matter) in six seconds or less. It’s a ruthless format, but cracking it meant almost guaranteed eyeballs and a high yield for joy.

Aside from one-offs like the horrifying rubber duck squeal heard across the internet, the platform was also a democratic stage to a new crop of fresh, diverse talent. There were gregarious heartthrobs like Logan Paul, six-year-old dancing prodigies like Lil TerRio, and expressive mini-storytellers like Summerella, to name a few. These people grew up with devices in their hands, knew how to ham for their smartphone cameras, and understood the whiplash-rate frame cuts that digital natives expect. They may have all built specific followings, but their talent circled around one uniting principle: playing to the internet’s dry, snappy, and absurdist sense of humor.

So what are we left with? Twitter has promised that the corpse of the site will live on for an unspecified amount of time. Users will be able to “access and download” their Vines. The four years of perfect video content that this wonderful experiment wrought will no doubt resurface in the form of YouTube and Instagram videos. But it won’t be the same. Because Vine’s format was truly perfect for the internet. And on the internet, nothing perfect can stay.