Why Vine’s Road To Success May Be A Very Bumpy One
(Update 30th Jan: An earlier version of this post referred to the videos created in Vine as GIFs. They are actually mp4 videos and the post has been amended to reflect this. Thanks to Stewart Curry for highlighting this).
If you were online in any form yesterday, chances are you heard, read or even tried out Twitter’s newest addition Vine. For the few that haven’t heard of it, Vine allows you to create high quality videos that last six seconds or less that you can post on Twitter or Facebook. Twitter had announced that these clips will now be included on cards so when you open it, the videos will automatically play.
On first glance, it’s a cool feature and you start thinking about the kind of stories you can tell with it. For one, the message you tell is done in a concise manner, much like an image, but also allows you to flesh out a scene in a way that only audio and video can provide. Twitter has posted a number of examples already on its blog including this one.
mixing gnarly basslines today vine.co/v/b55LOA1dgJU
— The Glitch Mob (@theglitchmob) January 23, 2013
More importantly, the short length of these videos means that it’s easily digestible, which in a world where all tweets are created equal, means it will have less of a hard time fighting for your attention. Vine is aiming for the middle ground that separates images and videos, bringing the accessibility an image brings with the context a video creates.
However, while that all sounds great in theory and Vine does have the potential to be huge, there are some concerns which arise once you take a step back, relating to both the app and Twitter itself.
Probably the biggest issue that Vine will have is how large these videos are as they take some time to load. From playing around with it and viewing the numerous tweets using Vine, the length of time it took for the videos to start playing varied between 10 to 50 seconds depending on the length of the video. Chances are the example tweet above took a few moments to load up before you could admire it, further illustrating this point.
When viewing it on the app, all clips worked like a video and would load in real-time, similar to YouTube. However, it would regularly stop as it tries to load up the clip, taking away from the experience.
What makes this particularly worrying is the fact that we were using a wifi connection to load them up. Chances are people would be most likely to view them on their phone, which means they’ll rely on 3G and 4G connections to load up, so for a medium that prides itself on immediacy, that’s a bad flaw to have.
The obvious reason behind this is file size, either internet connections get faster, or Vine will need to either compromise a little on image quality and compress these files as few will want to wait that long for a four second clip to load up. In a world where you can start watching a video in seconds and get information immediately, forcing you to wait around is an immediate drawback.
(Update 9:25pm GMT: The issue with loading times looks to be resolved. At the time of writing this post, loading times were incredibly slow as stated, which could have been due to the demand being placed on the servers running it. Currently, a WiFi connection sees instant loading times, while a 3G connection will load it in 5-10 seconds.)
A move that isn’t entirely new, but shows just how much the major social networks want to wall off their data from potential competitors. Only a few hours after Vine announced Twitter integration, Facebook cut off access to Vine’s ‘find people’ function. This is a blow as the main audience would want to find as many friends as possible on the service and not every video created will be suitable for a mass audience.
This isn’t Vine’s fault by any means, but it and many other apps have become a victim of politics as the big players protect their data from potential competitors (or even neutral parties). This isn’t new by any means, just think back to Instagram blocking off Twitter or even Twitter doing the same to LinkedIn for some recent examples, but it ultimately means that the user loses out.
Part of the joy with any new app is to see which of your closer friends have it so you can play around with it. Twitter itself will provide you with a list of followers to choose from, but it does limit the scope for discovery, which ultimately harms the experience.
Will It Make The News Feed Too Hectic?
When Twitter first launched, it was all about simplicity. All tweets were created equal which meant all information was easy to consume. Fast forward to a few years later and it’s an entirely different beast. Twitter’s been stretching the very definition of a tweet over the last 18 months, adding more multimedia features so that users spend as much time on it as possible. With every new addition it adds to the service, it chips away at the simplicity that made it such a hit in the first place.
Have a quick glance at your news feed and see how many links, images, videos and comments are fighting for your attention. Adding videos to the equation feels like it’s adding another layer to Twitter just for the sake of it. Adding images and videos integration to Twitter worked because they fulfil a specific need. Vine, on the other hand, only has a short time frame and looping as its main draw, which aren’t great reasons to choose it over snapping an image or recording a short video.
That said, the chances of Vine being huge is a definite possibility and the constraints it sets could give rise to some creative projects. However, until it shows that it’s fulfilling a specific need, people may find it gimmicky and resort back to the likes of Instagram and YouTube Capture.