Twitter announced yesterday that they are closing down Vine, their short video platform and app. While the platform will continue to run and Vines will exist for the foreseeable future, Vine isn’t allowing new signups and activity is expected to decline following the announcement.
This is surprising for two reasons.
Firstly, the demise of a major social network is a rare event. Social networks fall out of fashion, but they usually either retain passionate niche audiences that keep them running (e.g. Tumblr) or they find new business models to enable them to survive (e.g. Foursquare’s move into location data advertising). Closing a network down tends to only happen when it’s already become redundant (e.g. Friends Reunited).
Secondly, it all seems to have happened so fast. Just a year ago Mashable was lauding the network, enthusing: “Vine is no longer a social media network, it’s a mini-entertainment industry in your pocket“. The same post put the monthly active user-base of Vine at 200 million, at that point midway between the 300 million Instagrammers and 100 million reported Snapchatters. In other words: Vine was doing pretty well.
So, what went wrong?
The fact that Snapchat now claims to have 150 million daily users (60 million just in the US and Canada) whilst vine has no published user statistics since 2015 hints that, perhaps, the platform hasn’t maintained it’s once phenomenal growth rate.
Certainly, since Twitter acquired Vine in 2013, the competition among social video platforms has dramatically increased. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are all firmly established now in a space that was almost virgin soil (YouTube aside) when Vine emerged. Sending a six second loop is no longer new, or much fun when you compare it to Snapchat’s video messaging, filters and geo-filters.
But the most negative impact on usage of the Vine app has undoubtedly come from Twitter itself. Ever since Twitter started to show Vines within Twitter timelines, the need to open the (separate) Vine app has been gradually diminishing. Yesterday Vine was apparently listed down at 284 in the US App Store’s list of free apps; hardly the position of a leading media platform.
Social Media Consultant at OST Marketing, Daniel Brook, confirmed Vine’s fall from grace: “Vines get views but not through Vine. I watch Vine videos that people Tweet or post on Facebook, but I don’t even have the Vine app installed on my phone any more“.
One of the most popular vines of all time. Will you miss your mom?
As with all listed technology companies, the pressure for change will have emanated from shareholders, who are concerned about Twitter’s finances and prospects for growth. Having failed to monetise Vine over a three year period – in spite of the obvious advertising potential – it’s quite hard to sympathise with Twitter, but you have to feel for the Vine stars who have spent years building up their followings, only to have them, eventually, deleted.
What happens now?
Twitter has not announced any plans to maintain Vine or make the core functionality available from the main Twitter app, so it does seem like it’s the end for Vine. That said, social networks have died and returned from the grave (Bebo anyone?) and, having watched thousands of their comedy loops, it’s hard to imagine Vine users doing anything quietly.