Users mourn as Twit­ter kills quirky, beloved Vine video app

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Bar­bara Or­tu­tay

You can watch any video for six sec­onds, played on an in­fi­nite loop. The fun­ni­est ones only get more ridicu­lous with rep­e­ti­tion.

That was the beauty of Vine, the sim­ple, pi­o­neer­ing mo­bile video app that Twit­ter has de­cided to kill off. Its loyal users are mourn­ing its weird­ness, hu­mor and cre­ativ­ity-boost­ing con­straints.

There are al­ter­na­tives, sure, but noth­ing as sim­ple as Vine, which did just one thing, and one thing well. In­sta­gram has pho­tos and videos of all sorts. Snapchat keeps ex­pand­ing fea­tures, and it isn’t re­ally meant for mind­less scrolling of hu­mor­ous con­tent. Face­book, well, we all know Face­book.

Vine’s demise is a story of what hap­pens when a cool, edgy, but money-los­ing ser­vice fails to take off with the masses amid com­pe­ti­tion from heavy­weight ri­vals. On the other hand, had Vine gained mass pop­u­lar­ity, it might have lost its edge, the essence of what made Vine Vine, and in­stead got gob­bled up by big brands and san­i­tized into the main­stream — a bit like what’s hap­pened to Twit­ter, or In­sta­gram.

“Vine is a very unique app in that it re­quires the small­est amount of at­ten­tion. Watch­ing YouTube videos, read­ing Face­book posts or even look­ing at tweets takes more con­cen­tra­tion than watch­ing a six-sec­ond clip,” said Car­ling Craw­ford, 19.

Craw­ford, a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin, fondly re­called clas­sic Vines, such as the one ti­tled “A Po­tato Flew Around My Room Be­fore You Came,” which, as its name sug­gests, shows a po­tato tied to a ceil­ing fan and fly­ing around a room. In the time you read this sen­tence, it al­ready played twice. It has been played more than 23 mil­lion times and “revined,” or shared, nearly 9,000 times.

Sev­eral col­lege stu­dents men­tioned look­ing at Vine at the end of the day, be­fore go­ing to bed, as a way to de­com­press, es­pe­cially if the day was tough.

“It was some­thing funny to end my day on, kind of like a detox,” said Olivia Burger, a sopho­more at Gan­non Univer­sity in Erie, Penn­syl­va­nia.

Twit­ter bought Vine a few months be­fore the ser­vice launched in 2013. The ser­vice en­joyed a brief surge in pop­u­lar­ity be­fore it got over­taken by Snapchat and In­sta­gram, which in­tro­duced 15-sec­ond videos later that year. Vine stars (yes, that is a thing), moved on.

Jes­sica Vasquez, a makeup artist and self-de­scribed “pro­fes­sional po­tato” who goes by Jessi Smiles on Vine, hasn’t posted to that ac­count since March. On In­sta­gram, though, she was ac­tive five days ago and on Twit­ter, as re­cently as Thurs­day, when she lamented the demise of the beloved app.

“What a crazy jour­ney this has been,” she wrote on Twit­ter. “For­ever grate­ful for that silly lit­tle app.”

Vine also at­tracted some un­likely fans, such as the Kansas-based West­boro Bap­tist Church, per­haps best known for protest­ing the fu­ner­als of fallen sol­diers with in­flam­ma­tory anti-gay signs. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has some 13,000 fol­low­ers on Vine, and its sixsec­ond posts dis­play hate­ful mes­sages in of­ten-hu­mor­ous con­texts.

“(With) heavy boots and a sad heart, we do not look for­ward to the end of Vine. Alas, it was so young with so much prom­ise. We protest Vine’s fu­neral!” the church said in an emailed state­ment Fri­day.

More im­por­tantly per­haps, Vine was pop­u­lar with black and His­panic teens and 20-some­things, of­ten more so than with their white coun­ter­parts. Ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, 31 per­cent of black teens used Vine as of 2015, com­pared with just 22 per­cent of white, non-His­panic teens.

In a 2015 op-ed piece in the Guardian, com­men­ta­tor Han­nah Giorgi wrote that “Black users uti­lize Vine in hi­lar­i­ous, multi-faceted, com­plex and game-chang­ing ways.”

“At a time when bar­ri­ers to en­try in Hol­ly­wood and for­mal cre­ative in­dus­tries con­tinue to be al­most in­sur­mount­able for black me­dia­mak­ers, the abil­ity to sim­ply record a video with one’s phone and share it widely presents a more widely ac­ces­si­ble op­por­tu­nity for cre­ative in­ge­nu­ity,” she added.

Vine was also used to doc­u­ment protests against po­lice shoot­ings and bru­tal­ity in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, and else­where, though the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Face­book Live has started to over­shadow this, too.

Tech com­pa­nies such as Twit­ter are of­ten crit­i­cized for the lack of racial and other di­ver­sity among their em­ploy­ees. Now, the loss of a ser­vice that’s pop­u­lar with mi­nori­ties seems an ob­vi­ous ca­su­alty of the lack of di­verse voices among a com­pany’s de­ci­sion-mak­ers.

For its part, Twit­ter did not give a spe­cific rea­son for shut­ting down Vine, but it’s clear that the app is the ca­su­alty of the belt-tight­en­ing that also in­cludes the lay­offs of 9 per­cent of its work­force, or 350 peo­ple. Twit­ter didn’t say, specif­i­cally, why it chose to shut down Vine. In a press re­lease Thurs­day, Twit­ter said it plans to “fully in­vest in our high­est pri­or­i­ties and are de-pri­or­i­tiz­ing cer­tain ini­tia­tives” to try to turn its first profit ever by next year.

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