This week, we received the somewhat surprising news that Vine, the creation and distribution platform for looping six-second videos, is shutting down soon. Though Vine was/is owned by Twitter and the videos have always embedded nicely into tweets, it had a separate app and website to create, edit and host everything.
So even though the news came as a surprise, it makes sense. The videos and the site will stay online (for now), but it’s probably in Twitter’s best interest to encourage its users to create videos using Twitter’s built-in video tools.
I don’t think anyone will actually do that, but Twitter is allowed to dream.
Anyway, Vine was a frustrating platform for a lot of reasons; its native editing tools were never great, searching for old Vines was always a hassle and much of what was promoted on the Discover page was terrible. You had to dig a little deeper to find value in Vine, but that made Vine special.
Comedy is all about pacing and timing. 'Saturday Night Live' skits often fall apart because they go on for twice as long as they should.
Obviously, that's not a problem when you only have six seconds to work with. While six seconds seems like an extremely stringent limitation, it forced creators to prioritise what they include in order to maximise comedic impact.
Here's an example:
That joke was everything it needed to be in about the amount of time it will take you to read this sentence, which I'm totally not artifically stretching out in order to make my point. The punchline even comes right at the loop, so you barely have enough time to process what you just saw and heard before you're seeing and hearing it again.
As I hinted at before, I had a lot of misgivings about the kinds of Vines and creators who were the most heavily promoted on the platform. That said, when people actually put forth the effort to be funny instead of cashing in on topical memes, it occasionally produced some great stuff.
That's a Vine of some dude documenting his quest to buy some chewing tobacco. Even though it's set up like one of the countless terrible 'that moment when...' jokes out there, there's no punchline; dude just buys some dip and enjoys himself.
I'm one of the curators of a semi-active Twitter account (not safe for work) that finds and posts bad Vines, but when I say 'bad,' I mean like the Vine above. I adore Vines by people who made something for an audience of none -- people who have no ulterior motive beyond making something because they have the tools in front of them.
You can find so many Vines with loops in the single digits, where the creators were clearly some bored teens who felt like saying something into their front-facing camera because they could. I downloaded this app, so I should probably use it, right?
Whether it's someone singing a bad screamo cover of a pop song or someone doing vape tricks, the corner of Vine where everything exists purely for the pleasure of its creator was always my favourite part. I will miss it dearly.
I'm not especially qualified to talk about this, but NPR's Kat Chow sums it up well. In a media landscape where racial diversity is still hard to come by in mainstream productions, Vine offered a wide diversity of creators a space to make things and rise to prominence on their terms.
The ease with which you could film, edit and post something in less than a minute also made Vine valuable for documenting protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Social media has been a key factor in increased awareness of police brutality.
If you've been on the internet at any point in the past two years, you've probably seen the above Vine. It's a guy doing some seriously impressive acrobatics before accidentally kicking a hanging sign at Krispy Kreme.
It's a singular achievement in the history of human artistic expression. Everything from the lack of context ('back at it again'?) to the agonizingly perfect looping point is as beautiful as anything I've ever seen online.
Losing the hyperbole, that's one of the few Vines I've never been able to watch just once. I loop it at least five times each time it shows up because it's so funny and perplexing. It's uniquely suited to the format of Vine, too.
I've been on the internet for a while. I've seen trendy social networks and services come and go as venture capital money dictates. I get it.
The truth is that none of the sites we take for granted every day, such as Facebook and Twitter, will last forever. We'll all find something else to latch onto when they go away because that's how it's always worked.
Still, it's a bummer that Vine is getting shut down altogether while people still enjoyed using it. Usually websites just go the MySpace route and continue to sadly exist after everyone has forgotten about them.
Vine was charming, limited, funny, and frustrating all at once. I hope this article does a decent job of explaining why and documenting it for posterity. I'm going to leave you with an old Vine by Riff Raff, which has inspired me every day since I first saw it: