Vine lets you tweet six-second videos, just like you never wanted

Twitter’s new “micro-video” app is more than it seems

What to make of Vine? Twitter rolled out the “micro-video” app yesterday, and like Twitter, it’s more than it seems. 

Vine lets you shoot and share videos with your phone. Big deal, right? But six years ago, I heard about Twitter, an app that lets you share sentences. I said “big deal” then too. I could already do that, just as I could already make and share videos.

Twitter turned out to be a big deal indeed. Its genius was its simplicity. Sure, I could already write sentences–lots of them–on my blog and share them with the world, but by constraining me to 140 characters and feeding my tweets into an opt-in stream with pushbutton network effect (the brilliant “retweet”), Twitter removed all barriers to real-time chatter with an unlimited audience. The result, we now see, was a pretty significant transformation in communication.

Vine applies the same factors to video. It constrains you to six seconds, max. It removes all trickier aspects of video production–even basic editing tools are absent. It processes all videos into files similar to animated gifs–those lightweight, looping meme-able moments that proliferate wildly. Vine is integrated with Twitter (naturally), so you can attach one to a tweet as easily as you would a photo.

Early hype has it that Vine will be huge. I’ve learned my lesson and won’t predict otherwise, but I do have some reservations:

  • The written word is incredibly efficient. You can say a lot in 140 characters. But video? Less may be more here. Moving pictures often convey less info than still photos. What can you say with a six-second clip that you couldn’t say with a TwitPic? I guess we’ll find out.
  • Streamlining video is a step in the right direction when it comes to the instantaneous culture of social media. But even constrained to six seconds of compressed loopage, a vine is much more data-heavy than a tweet. It apparently takes a full 30 minutes for Vine to process and post each clip. On the receiving end, the burden of loading a constant stream of twitching videos is already crashing and clogging twitter clients. (Incidentally, I’m not embedding any vines in this post, since this page filled with them keeps crashing my browser.)
  • What the heck will we use it for? Twitter succeeds (for Twitter, at least) when it becomes second nature–when you barely think before you tweet. But people seem to be having lots of trouble thinking of anything substantive to share through Vine. Day one has brought us a barrage of pet videos and cinematic panoramas of people’s desks.

I look forward to eating these words in the days ahead, as users the world over stretch the limits of the micro-vid.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown


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