This simple concept enchanted Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter. His company was searching for a video app that would match Twitter’s model of brief messages, so it bought the technology last October.
“Video is the future and Vine has tapped into that,” says Peter Warner, senior social media analyst at the advertising agency WCRS. “There is something inherently appealing about the human, almost visceral, experience of communicating via video and audio — it so closely reflects real life.”
Just eight months on, about 13m iPhone owners are now plugged into Vine. The American analytics firm RJMetrics said in March that Vine had been used by 2.8% of highly active tweeters, and a quick look at the Apple App Store chart for free downloads reveals that Vine is at No 7 while Instagram, a photo-sharing app, is at No 18 — Instagram has 100m monthly active users and Vine is on the cusp of crossing into the mainstream.
Examples of Vine videos from Laura Weir and how The Times illustrated the budget on Vine
So once you’ve downloaded the free Vine app, what’s the dinner party chat? Well, you’re now a “Viner” who is “Vining” and, as with Twitter, the more followers you get, the better at Vine you are. I was recently voted by the fashion and beauty website NeverUnderdressed.com as one of the top people working in fashion to follow on Vine. So far I have 36 followers and I specialise in posting videos of fashion — of course — and friends falling over. Compelling stuff. (I console myself that Vine is a social media platform still in its infancy and that my repertoire will improve.)
A good Vine is chopped-up footage (you take your finger on and off Record to achieve this) that is lively, colourful and clever. My rule? If you’d watch it on television, Vine it. And do experiment. Vine is not easy — it takes practice. Videos of your supper or you prodding a dog just don’t cut it like photos of the same thing do on Instagram.
Others are having huge success on Vine. Take One Direction’s Harry Styles. He has 473,800 frenzied followers hanging on his every (rather brilliant) clip. Rolling Stone magazine has jumped into the app with gusto, using clever cover reveals, and the fashion designer Marc Jacobs uses Vine to give behind-the-scenes access to 18,568 fans of the billion-dollar brand.
In fact, it was the fashion world that first embraced Vine, with bloggers using the app to film catwalk shows at New York fashion week in February. Elsewhere the internet television service Now TV has launched a Vine film festival.
“You only really need to see six seconds of a fashion show to know if it’s any good,” says Sasha Wilkins, who blogs as Liberty London Girl. “Brevity is the watchword of the internet and Vine is one of the most revolutionary things to happen to the social media space — this week. There is so much out there now, you reach a saturation point.”
Nowadays hyperconnected types are probably managing at least four key platforms or apps, with one eye on their existing social portfolio, and the other on what’s next. There’s Facebook — it’s been around for nine years now — and Twitter, popular among the funny (most of the time) 30 to 45-year-olds. There’s Instagram, which I affectionately call the accessible app, because whether you’re six or 60, everyone can take a photo (and everyone looks better after applying a filter), and now there’s Vine.
“I don’t think Vine is for everyone; it’s right for me and our customers and fans,” says Henry Holland, founder of the fashion label House of Holland. “It’s a natural progression. Now we share our lives in a constant social media stream — it’s a bit like The Truman Show.”
There are pitfalls to living life on a live stream. The launch of Vine has been far from seamless — there are the pervs and porn, for starters. Vine is still experimenting with its rules on tackling inappropriate content, and explicit footage is not banned or actively monitored — in theory you must be aged 17 to download the app.
There’s also the issue of privacy. A quick Twitter search of #Vine throws up hundreds of videos. Most are fun — brilliant, even — but a number are annotated with comments such as “check out how drunk this boy is”, and there are up-skirt videos and the like.
“People are quite indiscreet on Vine and the issue of privacy is going to be interesting. It’s bad enough people taking pictures and putting them on Facebook without your consent, but at least you can de-tag yourself,” Wilkins says.
The record label of the singer Prince reportedly sent a takedown request to Vine, asking the app to remove an unauthorised video of one of his concerts, and last week West Midlands police used Vine to try to identify a man in relation to a murder investigation.
“It’s not in Vine’s interest to put preventative measures in place,” says Adam Morallee, partner at the law firm Mishcon de Reya. “These platforms just want content, so it’s encouraging people to video things that wouldn’t normally be in the public eye.
“The problem comes when you’re on a night out and you’re in a situation where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and someone does something that exposes you. The law has been drafted without social media in mind — applying established legal principles to this type of new technology is never straightforward.”
So, what’s the next big thing? Well, the app Snapchat is already huge news. It’s No 2 in Apple’s free apps chart, and its shtick? Take a photo and send it to a friend, who then looks at it. The image can’t be saved; it lasts up to 10 seconds and then disappears into the internet ether, tapping into the demand for brevity as Vine does.
New apps are being launched daily but it’s only a considered few that will trip the zeitgeist. For now, I’m happy getting to grips with Vine. It’s another friend’s birthday party next month. She has created a Facebook event and Instagrammed a picture of the save-the-date. All I’m waiting for is the Vine-vite.