Vine May Be Gone, But Internet Video Remains

By Danielle Freedman, SML Research Assistant

Live video streaming and sharing is wildly popular, and growing more so.

Across social media platforms, video is trending. Open up Snapchat, look at your friend’s video, within ten seconds it’s gone. Click on another one; video after video, moving picture after picture. Open up a news story, watch a video, scroll down, and watch another one. Click on a new Buzzfeed “Tasty” recipe. View that. In the span of one to two minutes, you’ve caught up on countless people’s lives, learned what is going on in the world, and probably made yourself hungry. How’s that for the development of technology?

Unfortunately, if your video-watching habits included Vine, you’ll soon be finding that your online video environment has shrunk. On October 27th, Twitter announced that it would shutting down its struggling short-video platform. Vine’s remaining users, mostly young people using the app as a platform for self–expression, led the internet in expressing their disappointment. From the outrage and grief, however, a crucial question emerged: What does this mean for the future of videos on social media?

The YouTube homepage as it appeared in 2005. Source

Just a few short years ago, the state of video-based social media was different. YouTube, for example, started in 2005 as a “flickr-style sharing site for videos”, as Time Magazine reported in its history of the site. YouTube intended video creators to upload their videos and reach viewers from the comfort of their home. Videos were posted to stay — live streaming and Snapchat-style ephemerality were still years away. Popularity of a YouTube video was measured by the number of views a video gained over time. Today, YouTube remains popular for its broad spectrum of features, from original content to streaming video.

In 2013, Vine hit, bringing the video feed with it. No longer did you need to search to find your favorite funny videos. Instead they came in 6-second clips, sometimes in real time and sometimes carefully edited. In 2013, Vine was in the 5th spot on the Apple app store, but its standing has plummeted in recent years. While it started as the Next Big Thing, Vine has attracted advertisers while at the same time losing regular users who tired of its limited uses.

Vine’s demise coincides with (and was arguably caused by) the rise of Snapchat and Facebook Live. According to Bloomberg, one-third of daily Snapchat users are creating and sharing video “stories”. To those unfamiliar, a Snapchat story is a collection of photos or videos that are broadcast to your fellow Snapchatters for 24 hours. In April 2016, Snapchat recorded 10 billion video views a day. Facebook video had fewer daily views, at 8 billion, only counting views of at least three seconds. Facebook has recently changed its video metrics, now measuring a video’s views as the largest number of people viewing a video while it was live.

Facebook demonstrates the uses for its Facebook Live video platform.

Facebook is fully aware of the power of its new video platform. The company describes the ability to watch live video as “reaching your audience in a new way”. On a page aimed at content creators, the social media giant says, “People love watching video, which is why we’ve built a dedicated place to watch this engaging content on Facebook. While your current fans will be able to keep up here and in News Feed, the experience will help new followers discover you too.” Here, the company downplays its careful measurement of video-watching habits, instead focusing on how creators can engage fans new and old. But live video is all about in-the-now, and Facebook is dedicated to measuring and understanding this immediate engagement and interaction.

Snapchat and Facebook have distinct advantages over Vine. As journalist Adrienne LaFrance put it in an article in The Atlantic, “Both apps target the same demographic — namely, teens — and enable users to make and share snackably short videos. Except Snapchat has other popular functionalities — including image filters and even voice calling — that Vine doesn’t.” Snapchat videos and Facebook Live are also closely embedded in platforms that allow other kinds of social sharing, while Vine’s relationship with Twitter was less obvious.

Platforms that support video and other animated content are pulling ahead in other areas of the social media and technology race, too. Apple’s latest iOS update lets users access GIFs from the regular keyboard. New animated drawings and backgrounds are part of the update as well. Snapchat, Instagram, and direct-messaging apps like GroupMe are continually introducing updates that encourage sending videos and animations.

Image

Even Facebook is preparing for a video-heavy future. Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president for Facebook’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa divisions, predicts the site will soon be nearly all video. Video is “the best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us”, says Mendelsohn. The immediacy and live qualities of Facebook Live and Snapchat videos mean that viewers aren’t just watching passively — they have the opportunity to join in the conversation as active participants.

As Vine’s demise makes painfully clear, the social media video landscape is constantly changing. Where YouTube began as a repository for memories, newer technologies are all about using video for communication. Snapchat, Facebook Live, Vine, and increasingly Instagram are all about broadcasting video to followers. Where they were once just a digital version of videotape, capable of being rewound and replayed, videos on social media are now a form of speech — just another way to chat. We can’t rewind or fast forward, because everyone’s watching live.

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