What has a visit to the Zoo and preparing food at home in common? Both were the first contents uploaded onto two of the most famous video platforms and marked the start of two internet success stories – YouTube and Vine. In the case of Vine, it was co-founder Dom Hofmann, that uploaded a homemade video of him making fresh steak tartar. Vine, a video-sharing app for 6 second-looped videos, has been founded in June 2012 by Hofmann and his co-creators Rus Yuspov and Colin Kro.
While the product was still being in Beta-Phase, Vine caught the attention of Twitter. In October 2012, Vine was being purchased for reportedly 30 Mio. Dollar before the app even launched. Industry experts said that this made sense, because Twitter, the 140-character text medium, did not have a video format so. Just a few months earlier, Twitter’s competitor Facebook had acquired Instagram. Vine was launched in the Appstore in January 2013. In its first month, it trended the iStore charts, and already six months later, the app counted over 13 million regular users.
Originally, the idea of its developers was to create a way of easily filming and editing videos. At the start, there was no maximum length planned, but files got too big to manage and share. Because of that reason, the developers came up with the six-second timeframe – more out of practical reasons than it being part of the original idea. This new concept created another problem – the videos were too short to make an impact on users. Therefore, the developers programmed the loop, which allowed users to see the same video in an infinite loop.
But Vine made a virtue out of necessity; the six-second loop would turn out to be the perfect medium for new internet-based sketch comedy performed by a new form of internet celebrity. These mostly young people were primarily – or only – famous for what they did in their six-second loops.
The format heralded a world of Periscope and Facebook Live that had not been invented yet. But the platform was also used for other, more serious events: a journalist in Ankara used the platform to cover 2013’s unease in the Turkish capital. In the same year, Daft Punk released a track listing on the platform, and in March “Art” vines were even being sold at auction.
One of the reasons for Vines success was the extremely lively and creative community, which consisted mainly out of teenagers. According to Mark Hoelzl, who conducted a survey for businessinsider in 2015, Vine had the second youngest follower group behind Snapchat. So, the app became quickly evident in pop and youth culture through memes, that are still being used today and finally heavily infiltrated pop culture-oriented media. Many Celebrities started to be present on Vines or started their career there. Such as Bobby Shmurda, a New York rapper, who was signed to a record deal after a clip from his music video drew millions of loops.
By the end of 2015, Vine counted 200 million users. But the app has already been through a noticeable decline in relevance. Many of its users have shifted to competitors, such as Instagram or Snapchat. In 2016, to the surprise of the public, Twitter announced that it would shut down the app, only 4 years after its launch. Luckily for its influencers, most of them had already opened up accounts on other platforms, but there was still a large and active community on Vine. The shutdown of the platform brutally demonstrated the dependency of the content creators and showed them, that it was important to be diversified and have a presence on different platforms at the same time.
Although the shutdown was a surprise, the downfall began much earlier and was a result of different reasons, such as Twitter lacking a clear strategy on how to implement the app in its own environment, and Vine’s failure to monetize the app.
Twitter didn’t manage to develop a coherent concept for implementing the video feature. It decided to focus on implementing its own, 30-second video feature instead of focusing on developing Vine further. Apparently, this was also due to a reluctance in Vine’s management to join Twitter creatively. Twitter also acquired several other start-ups, but never managed to align them into one clear strategy. Later on, Twitter would transform the app into vine video and integrate it into Twitter; this allowed the users to generate new videos in the vine format and style and upload them directly onto their Twitter accounts.
But more importantly, Twitter and Vine couldn’t figure out how to make money with the app. There were never explicit ads sold by Twitter on Vine itself. The company lost out on revenues from advertisers promoting tweets with the Vines embedded. The stars on the platform were successful by endorsing products in bespoke videos. But advertisers came to realize, that there were better options in the market: Facebook’s algorithm for better targeting and measuring the relevant target groups, or the direct approach of Snapchat for example. This would eventually spread to the users. In 2013, half of Vine’s “top influencers” stopped posting or deleted their accounts. These opinion leaders had several reasons to switch to its competitors: the missing monetizing options for content creators apart from brand endorsements, new features introduced by competitors, such as the 15-second Video of Instagram, or new entrants like Snapchat. All of these factors, combined with Vines unwillingness to change or introduce new features, led to the influencer exodus.
Vine’s demise was proof, that simply having users was not enough if you can’t monetize it. It would become a cautionary tale for other platforms, that have primarily focused on growth.
Byte –A failed attempt to come back
“The idea was to bring back what people remember about Vine, even if it isn’t necessarily the way that Vine was,” said Dom Hofmann, one of the co-founders of Vine, when introducing his new app, called Byte. Byte was launched in January 202, exactly 7 years after the release of Vine. Originally the app should have been called V2, but the project was later rebranded for better distinction.
The week it became publicly available, Byte was briefly the most downloaded app in the App Store, crossing a million downloads. 70% of the downloads happened in the United States, another 7% each in Canada and the UK.
Apart from the short looping videos, Byte’s design referred heavily to Vine. A familiar search and discovery page with even the same prompt for the commenters: “Say something nice.” It introduced a couple of new features, such as Floaties, which were floating texts or videos added to the videos.
To better reward its influencers, the company planned to open a partnership program to share advertisement revenues.
Despite all the changes and the good head start in January, the app never broke out to the mainstream. Only when Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok, there was a noticeable quick rise in interest; but after the ban was held up in court, it seemed to die down quickly.
In 2021 Byte was ultimately sold to Clash, another TikTok competitor.
Tik Tok – Vine’s successor
TikTok, developed by the Chinese Zhang Yiming, became one of the hottest apps since its launch in 2016. Zhang formerly started his company with an online news service that heavily relied on AI. This knowledge in AI plays a key factor in TikTok’s success.
The app functions similarly to Vine: the user watches short videos in a loop, although the videos are significantly longer. One of the key elements to trigger engagement in the videos is the love of music by all age groups. The tie-in offers a fun twist that lends itself to new trends, memes, and challenges. Other social networks are primarily built on connections between people who know each other in real life. Tik Tok focuses on optimizing the content you see; it is entirely possible to spend hours on TikTok without seeing anyone you follow because it is driven primarily by algorithmic discovery.
This algorithm determines your interests based on how much time you spend on which type of video. Furthermore, it establishes relationships based on videos that the same users interact with. This is comparable to a “frequently bought together” section in an online shop. The algorithm also helps content creators, especially new ones, to gain reach. It rewards content above all else, which makes it easy to gain a big following fast if the content is liked by the users.
The features of the app and its active community allow brands to engage and inspire their fans in more authentic and entertaining ways. This makes TikTok also incredibly successful in monetizing its app; it is currently battling for the throne of the highest conversions in in-app-buying against Instagram.
By the end of 2021, TikTok had 1 billion active users and is growing fast.
Article by Daniela Duque Ramos