Andy Warhol famously predicted that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. In the case of Vine, however, that formula was often reduced to six seconds. The video-sharing app’s popularity, however, lasted just a little bit longer.
Twitter announced today that it is shutting down the service, which the social-media giant bought in 2012. Vine gave users a platform to share six seconds of video that would play on an automatic loop. It quickly became a destination for comedians, musicians, artists, and filmmakers, many of whom pushed the app’s video capabilities to creative heights. Others used it more like a condensed YouTube channel, posting condensed comedy sketches for a generation reared on short attention spans. More popular users gained millions of followers and launched careers steeped in lucrative marketing deals. But once Twitter and Facebook began offering their own video-sharing capabilities, Vine struggled to find a broader user base. But it did find success in a more limited arena as an insulated hub for digital creatives.
The six-second format lends itself to many innovative media artists, with animators chief among them. Vines featuring stop-motion animation helped some content creators dramatically widen their audiences, like Jethro Ames, whose short Vine played the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013. Also in that competition was Khoa Phan, whose cut-out felt animations caught the attention of Peanuts Worldwide when the company hired him to create 12 vines for the legendary cartoon.
Filmmaker Tony Oswald was an early adopter of the platform as well. His channel, “Tony Only Dances To Pony,” featured only videos of himself dancing to Ginuwine’s “Pony.” He then directed the ambitious narrative series “NSFW,” about two broke millennials’ who try their hands at sex work. Viewed continuously, “NSFW” plays like a feature film — a radical achievement considering the concision of the platform.
On the commercial side, stars like King Bach and Logan Paul have used their Vine success as a springboard into lucrative acting careers. King Bach, or Andrew B. Bachelor, is currently the most followed Vine user with 16 million followers. He has had recurring roles on “Houser of Lies,” “The Mindy Project,” and had a role in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” parody “Fifty Shades of Black.” Paul, whose high-strung bro character would fit perfectly into the new “Jackass” movie, is making a play for dramatic roles, starring in YouTube Red’s post-apocalyptic feature “The Thinning” alongside Peyton List.
Twitter has been criticized by users for being slow to roll out product updates, and it’s possible the company ran its purchase into the ground the same way it has infuriated its own users. It’s likely that Vine took a hit when Instagram enabled its video-sharing capability, which now extends up to sixty seconds. Younger users quickly migrated over to Snapchat, which offers similar video-sharing capabilities and about a million more bells and whistles. With so many options for video-sharing, the specificity of a six-second loop is hardly a strong enough conceit for a competitive marketplace. These days, being first out of the gate isn’t enough; it goes without saying that the artistic possibilities emboldened by Vine didn’t exactly strengthen its business model, either.
Nevertheless, the service should be commended for energizing a community of digital creatives to explore new possibilities.(Digital archivists will need to scramble to preserve these contributions.) The constraints on the Vine creator are a bit like those imposed by Oulipo, a group of French writers that included Italo Calvino and Georges Perec. They created rules or games as a way to trigger ideas and inspiration, and in so doing, created a movement still employed by writers today. Filmmakers and artists worked within the constraints of the six-second looping video to create a distinct Vine-style of filmmaking. It may soon be relegated to the history books, but its impact will continue to resonate.