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Where is Twitter going with Vine?

Posted by Ian McKee on 25th January 2013

Yesterday, Twitter launched Vine, a new (currently iPhone only) app for sharing six second long videos. The idea, one supposes, is to bring the same kind of creativity enforcing brevity to video sharing that Twitter brings to message sharing.

It’s a move that I think is indicative of some of the thought processes going on within Twitter HQ in terms of its future strategy, and I’m not convinced they’re all good.

Hey, GIFs are pretty popular right?

Twitter, once the undisputed indicator of zeitgeist, has managed to spot a trend. Well done Twitter.

GIFs are massive on Tumblr, the other microblogging platform Twitter is seeing heading up in its rear view mirror. The brilliance of GIFs is that they’re embeddable anywhere, fairly lightweight (as they’re just image files), and there’s something about the short form looping moving picture.

So Vine(s?), being short, looping, easy to make videos, are essentially glorified GIFs.

On a technical level, it makes a lot of sense, as Vine videos are not Flash based, they’re HTML5. To share a short looping video it would make sense to use a GIF versus a heavy Flash file, but an HTML5 clip that can be decent definition, includes sound and still be lightweight should beat the relatively ancient GIF technology hands down. As long as they are easy to make. And on Vine, they are.

Those examples

The thing is, the GIFs that get shared thousands and millions of times on the likes of Tumblr and Reddit tend to be funny. Or fascinating, or just make you go “woah”.

The Vine examples Twitter has used in its announcement post are none of these things. The holding hands one is cheesy and dull, flickbook poorly executed and dull, and ‘gnarly basslines’ is dull with extra helpings of dull.

It’s a shame, as having used the app there is clearly scope for creativity, but Twitter has failed to showcase that from the off.

Did someone say Cinemagram?

We’ve seen serious animosity between Twitter and Instagram recently, and the fact that some people are calling Vine the ‘Instagram for video’ may explain why Twitter initially restricted Instagram’s access to its platform.

The thing is, we already had an Instagram for videos. Cinemagram allows you to create short videos (which it actually converts into GIFs) with a unique way to turn them into magical little moving vignettes. It’s far more likely to inspire creativity than Vine’s functionality.

So why didn’t Twitter buy Cinemagram? Price? It’s bought Vine before even launching, which suggests it may well have been buying a video-sharing platform on a budget.

All of the multimedia

I mention Tumblr as the growing silhouette in Twitter’s rear view mirror. That’s how I imagine Twitter sees them; the newer, trendier, multimedia social blogging platform that all the kids are into these days. Scary.

But I’m not sure they are (or at least need to be) competitive.

I also mentioned that Twitter inspires creativity with copy by limiting you to 140 characters. That is what it does well.

Check out the most retweeted tweets of all time, none of them are exactly works of genius, but nearly all are text only. There’s a reason that Twitter is so popular with journalists, people who love words and are so adept at using them.

So there is an argument to say “Twitter, stick to the words.” With its attempts to own image and video sharing, it is losing its differentiator to the likes of Tumblr, Facebook and YouTube.

It’s a very nice app. Slick, easy to use, and I can see how it could be used with creativity despite the sub par examples we’ve been given so far. With Twitter behind it, Vine stands a very good chance of growing, but I wonder whether in the long run it just leads to Twitter becoming an amalgamation of all social networks, where it does everything, and none of it very well.

Ian McKee

Ian started out his career working in travel PR, working for tourist boards, airlines and hotel groups. Whilst there he carved out a position as a digital communications expert, managing social media, SEO and email marketing campaigns for clients.