Last fall Twitter acquired a mobile company called Vine, and today they rolled out what Vine has been building: a mobile app that enables users to take six-second videos with their phones and share and embed them. In many ways, it’s Twitter’s version of a video Instagram. You’re limited to six seconds, just like Twitter holds you to 140 characters.
“Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger,” explains Vine GM Dom Hofmann. “They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.”
The hallmark feature is the ability to edit on the fly. Touch the phone, it records. Release your finger, it stops. So you can create things like this:
The epic Godzilla vs Mr Hand battle you always hoped to see. #2013 vine.co/v/b5HeOuiLHmd
— Ian Padgham (@origiful) January 24, 2013
That’s an embedded tweet above, with the video playing automatically (audio default off). You can see several more creative examples on Twitter’s blog here.
My first reaction to Vine, as a former TV guy, was to question the six second limit. But I think it’s important to realize the power of a focused, mobile-centric approach. Twitter’s 140 character limit was the product of mobile (so it would fit on SMS), and perhaps six seconds may be a perfect match for today’s mobile snacking crowd. Just look at the wild success of Snapchat, which allows users to send messages or photos that self-destruct after ten seconds or less.
Mobile is a new world.
So what does this mean for TV? First things first, you should probably lock down your brand names just to be safe. You can authenticate via your branded Twitter account and capture the name. Vine also allows people to sign up via email, so it’s unclear if someone can try to squat on a name. Better safe than sorry.
Beyond the six second limit, Vine also requires you shoot the video yourself — no uploading from another source, even existing videos on your phone (at least as far as I can tell). So if you’re a media brand and you want to upload a funny six-second promo, well, it looks like you’ll have to shoot it yourself with an iPhone. Time will tell if someone comes up with a workaround, just like Instagram users figured out that you can just screen-grab someone else’s photo and reshare it.
It’s also too early to tell whether Vine will be a success, but you have to respect the fact Twitter owns it, and by extension, will be promoting and integrating it to a large, social-savvy crowd. So far, there have been several attempts to nail the “Instagram for video” — SocialCam and Viddy are among the more well-known — but none of them has scaled anywhere near Instagram, which is now owned by Facebook. Meanwhile, the big daddy of video, YouTube, recently rolled out Capture, a simple app that lets you record and share clips. And now Twitter, which tried to buy Instagram at one point, has rolled out Vine. The battle for mobile video is more heated than ever.
If a new video app scales like Instagram — likely with a focus on shorter clips — it will offer another platform for TV brands to creatively promote themselves. It will evolve into a rich source of eyewitness video reports. And it will grab a big chunk of “attention share” on mobile devices, which simultaneously makes that space more competitive for TV brands. I think it’s important for TV brands to have it both ways: create their own compelling mobile products while trying new things with social platforms like Vine. A culture of experimentation should continue to rule the day, and it will be exciting to watch how Vine fares in the unpredictable world of social apps.