Flowers For Vine

I’m not sure if I can accurately express what this Vine meant to me many years ago. Not even six seconds long, containing only seven spoken words, I once watched this Vine an endless number of times, loop after loop. My friends and I repeated the last phrase to one another for years, even after Vine was gone and occasionally, we still do. This was the kind of power Vine wielded at its peak. At least we all got to laugh while the majority of our minds were given irreparable damage in six seconds or less. 

I still enjoy annoying my friends on an almost-nightly basis with videos. These are the occasionally informative but mostly off-putting videos that apps and platforms like Tik Tok or Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts have corralled just for you and me and everyone else who has been plagued with an obsession to scroll and watch and share. Our duty as an active audience member to this individually-curated content is to pass it on to whoever we choose. The mediums may have changed, but sharing a video still embodies the act of preserving an experience so that one can share with others what they felt, whether that be happiness or disgust or some form of disbelief that what you’ve been forced to witness.

In the age of Tik Tok—a vast and interconnected online platform where the content somehow ranges from helpful tips or history lessons to car accidents in a third-world country or the feeble attempts of a rural man in his mid-fifties to recite the conspiracy theories that have turned his brain into a soft viscous paste—it’s often easy to forget the app’s predecessor, Vine. It’s been over seven years since Vine was shut down, forcibly entombed in the catacombs of the internet, leaving in its wake a collection of niche phrases and slang that consistently returns to the zeitgeist of our social media-driven world. And, depending on one’s age, Vine itself has since become an afterthought. What was once heralded as the newest innovation of the social media and content sharing world has since become a case study regarding the limitations of social media platforms, and the discussion around the now-defunct app fails to respect exactly how Vine cultivated our attitudes towards short-form video content.

Vine wasn’t made for today’s world. The once-revolutionary six-second format inevitably became a gimmick that other platforms quickly surpassed. The stretch of time between 2012 and 2017 which saw Vine’s meteoric rise and inevitable downfall outlined the subtle shift of users’ preferences as they too began to adapt. During the rise of Vine, the majority of us were novices regarding the ease of access to create and share content at the global scale that Vine had, and after spending years with this accessibility held in check by the six-second limit, users sought out better accessible and creative advantages offered by today’s most popular platforms.

Vine inevitably failed for the same reasons that the majority of any sort of business does: money. And while this is not the main reason Vine has been propelled back into discussion—as it always seems to be linked to some sort of possible resurrection—what seems to be misplaced is the respect for what Vine gave the world: the modality many of us utilize as a way to spam our friends with videos they may or may not want to see. Vine conditioned us to consume short-form video content and share it with ease and reckless abandon. Vine walked so Tik Tok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts, could run and gift all of us with a random assortment of content ranging from someone making food in a prison cell to poorly edited highlights of a middle-school track and field athlete. It’s time we pay our respects to Vine and where it led us today (as long as we don’t entertain the possibility of it ever being brought back again).

Six seconds never felt like enough time. Maybe that’s why Vine and the app’s content was played (and counted) on the basis of a loop, continuously repeating until the user decided that it was time for whatever was next on their feed. The six second limit is what made Vine stand above every other form of social media that came with the ability to create and send videos. But, what made Vine different is ultimately what led to its demise, amongst other fiscal issues that apps like Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and Tik Tok have found ways to adhere to in recent years of their monetization. 

The six second limit connected with Vine’s demographic, offering what Katie Baker with Enterprise Technology News cited as “fast-paced, surreal, and often absurdist humor.” The format forced those content creators and random users whose moments of virality became infamous to be selective about what little time they did have to create their content. However, that same limitation inevitably became susceptible to evolution. 

Evolution may be a bit of an exaggeration, but as Snapchat continued to grow since its launch in 2012, followed by Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram that same year, Vine’s leadership team had to have known that the magic they captured upon the app’s launch would eventually escape. The short-form video content that Vine pioneered failed to adapt features that rival apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube all began to incorporate over time, on top of having the ability to better monetize and pay those same content creators who helped generate Vine’s fast-paced growth. The six-second form was a novelty, and after four years without any dynamic advancement, Vine had begun to dig its own grave. 

The downfall of Vine can be dissected at length. The Sparknotes version of the app’s demise can be summarized by a lack of revenue and adaptation amongst leadership transitions that saw all three founders (Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll) banished from their respective roles at various moments in time after Twitter bought the app for $30 million before it launched in 2012. 

But why dwell on the past? There isn’t really a point in conjuring up the collective mourning many of us shared when Vine’s doors closed for good in 2017 because, like many other social media apps that couldn’t last in the ever-changing world we live in, it’s important to not only discuss the six-second form and video sharing template that made the app revolutionary, but the way in which Vine shaped our minds to consistently seek and share the videos that reach us from around the world.

Before Vine, there wasn’t an app that was solely dedicated to the video format that also had the built-in ability to record and edit and create whatever you could possibly dream of, all within the confines of six seconds. When Vine was first launched, the app initially became a beacon that attracted the attention of a wide-range of users, not just the content creators that were utilizing Vine to craft six-second comedy skits. According to Catherine Rowell with Business Chief, by the end of 2013, Vine had already surpassed 200 million users, and the reason behind the app’s rapid growth was embedded in its ingenuity. Vine generalized the concept of sharing your own personal content to the masses in an instant—faster than anything anyone could possibly upload to YouTube—which in turn began our obsession with watching a nearly-endless library of content that was constantly being refreshed, loop after loop. 

The only stipulation, the Achilles heel of an app that was rapidly changing the way in which users not only created content for social media, but consumed it as well, was the six-second limit. When Laura Sydell of NPR interviewed Dom Hofmann, she came to the conclusion that the decision to make the time limit six seconds allowed for the aesthetic feel the creators wanted but preserved the quickness they wanted to promise users. So, six seconds fostered creativity, but it also seemingly lit the fuse for Vine’s destruction and the creation of the juggernaut that Tik Tok became, an app that catapulted off of Vine’s platform, instilling better creative tools and more versatility to appease their users. Vine itself fostered creativity. The six-second limit simply hindered—and possibly corralled—the app’s potential to have a wider reach than it did at its peak. In hindsight, it’s difficult to imagine any app striving to limit their users the way Vine did, and maybe that’s why we share the traits we do as consumers of content today. Scorned by a limitation so short and sweet that we constantly found ourselves seeking more.

It’s a Pavlovian dynamic, the addictive urge to scroll and watch and share, receiving the stimuli that at the very minimum offers viewers levity from the crushing weight of our despondent world if only for 30 seconds or a minute. Vine cultivated this behavior in many of us—whether or not you were on Vine or ignoring the bandwagon of users during those initial years after 2013—and did so by creating accessibility towards the online platforms that dominate our world. The modalities may have changed, but our behaviors remain the same. Trends will always rise and fall, but scrolling and sharing and annoying our friends is the same as we began to do so with Vine. We spammed friends, watched vines endlessly loop, and forever etched the memory of our favorite six-second videos deep into the subconscious of our mind so that even as the next iteration of Tik Tok arrives, we are still able to recite one particular vine verbatim.     

I hate to break it to those out there who are still holding out hope that Vine will one day return from the dead and reclaim the throne that it once held, but that day will never come. Whether or not you’re one of the many who take place in the constant stream of videos, a cretin whose brain has rotted to the point where nothing but content can suffice their urge to watch out of sheer necessity or hate, Vine helped create this world you live in and all it ever needed was six seconds. The kind of ingenuity—or stupidity—brought forward in the matter of six seconds could never be replicated again. The legacy of Vine deserves respect, or at the very minimum, admiration for what its platform did, pushing our concepts and priorities within social media past a point of no return. Vine was here and gone, causing irreversible damage to our brains in the most comical way possible, by having us all watch six-second videos. 

A Short List Of Some More Vines That Need To Be Remembered:

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