Social media murder (or withering Vine...)

Mark Pinsent

01 June 2013

I think a social media murder was committed yesterday. Not everyone does. But I do.

I think Instagram killed Vine.

It's not the first time that one social platform or application has rung the death knell for another (umm, Facebook and MySpace anyone?) but yesterday's act seemed somehow more direct and brutal.

Back in January, Twitter-owned Vine appeared: a mobile application which allowed its users to very simply create and post six second looping videos. Here's a good example. It quickly became popular and has been downloaded more than 19 million times so far. As happens with any new social media channel or application, brands have also been experimenting with Vine, to varying degrees of success. Social media poster-child Burberry has gained a lot of attention in the past few days for creating a Vine of its entire new collection.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly for Vine. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, massively popular photo-sharing mobile app Instagram announced that it was updatng its application to include the facility to shoot short-form videos. In doing so, in my view, it has pretty much killed off Vine in an instant (excuse the pun). And I think Vine itself knew too. At the time of the Instagram announcement, it was promoting this Vine through Twitter. It kind of felt like a 'thanks and goodbye' to me.

I've used Instagram video over the past day or so (you can find mine here - the videos have the little triangle in the top-right) and think that it's got a few key advantages over Vine, namely:

  • Videos are 15s long to Vine's 6s. It's just more usable
  • You can apply filters to videos
  • You can delete bits of the video and re-record (this is hugely useful)
  • It's part of Instagram (1), which is my default photo application, so I can choose to shoot a still image or video from the same place
  • It's part of Instagram (2), which means my videos and photos form a single stream for my legions of followers (116 strong...get me)

There are some arguments in Vine's favour (though arguably in my view):

  • Instagram video doesn't loop, it just plays once and that's it
  • Instagram videos (like Instagram photos) don't appear 'in stream' in Twitter

To the first point here, that's fine by me because (a) you have more than twice the time in which to tell a little story and (b) very few Vines loop so well that it adds to the video (like the previous example).

The second point is more significant and relates to the politics of social media. Instagram is owned by Facebook. Twitter (which owns Vine, remember) has restricted the ability for Instagram photos and now video to be viewable in a Twitter user's stream of tweets. By that, I mean that to view such content the user has to click out of Twitter into another app or window. So for Twitter users, viewing Instagram content is a two-click affair.

Vines, on the other hand, do appear in stream (as you might expect). That said, you do still need to create a Vine in the Vine app. If Twitter was really smart, it would embed the Vine functionality into the Twitter mobile app (it is, so it will).

But still these arguments don't add up to Vine being able to resist Instagram's assault. Instagram has just brought short-form video in a beautifully usable way to more than six times as many users as have the Vine app. And these users are already really engaged. They've uploaded more than 16bn photos to Instagram and produce more than 1bn 'likes' every day. That's more than 11,000 per second (I think). That's staggering.

And Facebook, which owns Instagram, is also very smart. It's been treating Instagram very carefully so far so as not to irritate all lose lovely engaged users, but ultimately I think we'll see the Instagram photo and video functionality become embedded in the Facebook mobile app.

At the end of the day, however, it all comes down to user experience. I've used both Vine and Instagram video. Instagram's just better.