A little over a year ago, the digital cultural community known as Vine was shuttered. The Twitter-owned service had never totally fit into the social-meets-video bracket, insisting on its weirdness rather than conforming to paths carved out by apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Because of that, it never earned their massive user base (though plenty of us [points at self] were watching without contributing). But it also never became so cookie cutter: In an App Store full of mimicry, Vine harbored true digital creativity.
And now it’s gone. Where does the digital creative scene stand without it? Since then, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and even YouTube have copied each other more and more, molding into differently designed versions of, more or less, the same thing. And perhaps because of these all-too-similar setups, the content we post to them feels interchangeable. None are inspiring us to do something different, something more, the way Vine did (ironically, with less time). — Molly McHugh
Now that it’s been a year, we’d like to say yet another RIP for Vine — and ask how big of a hit digital-social creativity has taken since its shuttering.
Justin Charity: Well, if anything, modern YouTube does the opposite of Vine; it offers incentives for making videos that are way too damn long. Like gaming streams.
Victor Luckerson: Right, YouTube’s algorithm emphasizes watch time so creators are encouraged to make extra-long videos to attract views. If you listen to YouTube PR, they only ever talk about hours watched, not video views or even users.
Alyssa Bereznak: The time limit is key. But I think the fact that the videos loaded and looped on Twitter was important to them spreading at any given moment. For instance, during the primaries, if a candidate did ANYTHING weird onstage, it would immediately spread in a neverending loop all over the internet.
Molly McHugh: Ugh, so true. The loop was so satisfying.
Kate Knibbs: There are other apps that allow people to make looping videos now, but I am not sure they will ever catch on.
McHugh: You can on Snapchat now, right? But I’m never going to share that out everywhere else.
Knibbs: Vine debuted at the right time, before the App Store got totally saturated.
Charity: Yes, Vine spread very easily beyond its own domain; more than half of my Vine consumption was me watching Vines on Twitter and YouTube.
Nicole Bae: There are so many loooong compilations on YouTube, too.
Bereznak: I like watching those, but it’s definitely a different sensation!
As it stands now, post-Vine, what platform or app is giving users the space and tools to be most creative?
Charity: I don’t know, really. Vine was this huge central hub for watching hip-hop culture, including dance crazes, develop and proliferate virally, in real time. And now, it’s just gone, and there’s no real successor service for observing those corners of hip-hop and R&B in the same way.
McHugh: I feel like it’s … probably YouTube?
Luckerson: When I attended VidCon over the summer, a lot of the biggest Vine stars had migrated to YouTube. But these are the kinds of folks who had millions of followers, are making deals for online shows, that kind of thing. I think where you’re likely to see the next generation of online stars is livestreaming apps like Live.me and Musical.ly. The Always-Elusive Teens are obsessed with these apps and spend actual money on them just so a video star will see their messages among a stream of thousands.
McHugh: Oooh yeah, Musical.ly. Hmm. There was a lot of buzz about Musical.ly last year. It feels like it died down but … I’m 30, so who knows.
Charity: A few months ago, I watched several hours of my friend Liz Ryerson doing wonky-level design analysis of Wolfenstein 3D on YouTube. It’s just a different culture of viewership.
McHugh: Because you don’t watch hours of Vine, right? It would just joyfully pop into your life on a consistent basis. YouTube is more of a time suck.
Charity: I mean, I’ve def also watched the “why the fuck you lying” Vine for several hours. On loop.
McHugh: Hahaha yeah, fair.
Bereznak: I’d also throw Live.ly in there as another hot teen platform. The New York Times’ Amanda Hess wrote a good story about a kid-singer-actor-model-violinist who uses the app to broadcast his life to a virtual crowd.
McHugh: I just looked it up. Musical.ly definitely took a hit. (An aside: I think the App Store should show how many spots up or down an app is over the last few weeks/months.)
Charity: Lifestyle streaming is the present and the future, and I don’t like it one bit.
McHugh: Agree, it’s not the same as Vine. I don’t care about your ACTUAL life. Just go push on a bunch of ducks.
Bereznak: WHY ARE MORE PEOPLE NOT PUSHING DUCKS?
Charity: Performance > lifestyle — though, I suppose, modern life is a dystopian blur of “lifestyle” and performance.
Knibbs: I suspect that the ambition to be an #influencer is now going to dictate what people post far more than just pure silly creativity.
Molly: God, that’s so bleak! And I think you’re right.
Knibbs: One of the best things about Vine was that it was about being funny and clever and not personal branding.
Luckerson: In that way, it mimicked early YouTube.
Knibbs: I wonder if teens care about this distinction as much as we do.
Bereznak: Yeah, there were great comedians on the app. But whether or not their work succeeded depended on if it could exist outside their personal branding.
Everything else that serves as a platform for “performance/personal branding” is identical now. And that’s become even more true over the last year. Does it feel like apps are caught up in such a rat race that users are, in some ways, being forgotten?
McHugh: There’s sort of this attitude of “Well, it’s on Snapchat, so put it on Instagram Stories.” That’s not going to encourage different/new/creative use cases.
Knibbs: I think most of the social platforms are more worried about how much advertisers like their products than regular old users. And it pisses me off.
Bereznak: Definitely. They’re also making a play to replace traditional television (see: Facebook). That requires appealing to the mainstream, and being much less weird and fringy.
McHugh: Is there going to be a way to break out of this? Will there be a new safe space for weird, niche performance digitally? That has the same sort of exposure as Vine?
Luckerson: There’s no market for it. It’s important to remember Vine shut down because Twitter couldn’t or wouldn’t figure out a way to make money off of it. In the future Facebook or another tech giant can approximate creative use cases (as it has with Snapchat features) or simply acquire a cool creative app (like Instagram). The internet is only going to become more homogenized.
Knibbs: And more corporate!
McHugh: That’s dark.
Charity: We’re all rambling, maladjusted gamers now.
Bereznak: Victor is definitely right. But part of me wants to — needs to — hope that young people who want to avoid old people on the internet will always come up with new ways to do so.
McHugh: It’s sort of wild that the more tools we have and better we are at using them, the less creative we’re getting, right? That’s kind of a huge bummer.
Knibbs: I still think we’re creative! The platforms just suck. I think I’m becoming an Ello supporter …
Bereznak: Forty years from now, we’ll all be watching Youtube Vine compilations on carefully branded livestreams, ranting about what Ello could’ve been as a form of nostalgic performance art.
Knibbs: Only if our MindChips are functioning properly!!
Can we crowdsource a Vine comeback?
Charity: Vine … welcome to the resistance. Would a new Vine be able to solve the long-term profitability problem that Victor noted? What are the good answers to that?
Bae: Would the good Viners come back? Or would there be a new generation?
McHugh: Vine would have to get some sort of Patreon deal going where people paid for content. But that sort of ruins it too, right?
Bereznak: It’s doomed, guys, sorry.
Charity: Right, it seems like exclusivity and virality are at terminal odds.
Luckerson: Let’s just be glad it wasn’t around long enough to be co-opted by the alt-right.