Twitter Never Figured Out How to Take Advantage of Vine

October 27, 2016, 5:24 PM UTC
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(ILLUSTRATION) An illustration dated 12 April 2013 shows the display of a smartphone with the app Vine in Schwerin, Germany. Facebook has been losing users for a while, but services such as Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter and Vine are becoming more popular. Photo by: Jens Büttner/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Jens Büttner — picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Once seen as a promising competitor for YouTube and other video platforms, Vine is being shut down, Twitter announced on Thursday.

The company said any videos that have already been created using the app will remain online for now, but the app is being discontinued. “To all the creators out there — thank you for taking a chance on this app back in the day,” the Vine team said in a blog post.

Twitter is currently struggling to improve its financial picture after failing to attract the interest of an acquirer. It announced better-than-expected earnings early Thursday morning, but also said it is laying off up to 350 people, or about 9% of its total workforce.

The company bought Vine in 2012 for an estimated $30 million, and it was seen at the time as an ambitious move into the burgeoning market for short-form video.

The app allowed users to create six-second video loops quickly and easily, and quickly became popular with a wide range of aspiring actors, musicians, comedians, and other creative types. At one point, media outlets were writing about “Vine stars” and how they were building a following using the app.

Occupied with other concerns—including slowing user growth and a focus on streaming video broadcasts with the NFL and other media entities—Twitter (TWTR) never really managed to figure out how to properly take advantage of the service.

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At one point, Vine stars began complaining that they were unappreciated by the company. YouTube (GOOGL), they said, tried hard to help its creative users generate revenue and shared it with them, but Vine did not.

Twitter tried to rectify this situation, including acquiring a marketing service/talent agency called Niche for an estimated $30 million last year, which was intended to help Vine stars build their brands and expand their reach. But it seemed like too little, too late.

Some Twitter watchers and analysts believe that making Vine a standalone app was a mistake, and that the company should have just built support for short-form video into the service itself, the same way it supported GIFs. But others believe Vine simply got overtaken by competitors.

Not that long ago, Vine and Periscope seemed innovative, at the forefront of short-form video and streaming. But Snapchat has grown so massive that it has sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room when it comes to video—and Facebook Live (FB) was the nail in the coffin. Instagram also moved into short-form video with the backing of its parent company.

Anyone who wants to build a following using short video clips now has three huge platforms they can choose from, ones that are far more beloved by both users and advertisers than Vine would have ever been. And many have been fleeing Vine for some time now.

Logan Paul, once one of the hottest Vine stars on the service—with more than 4 billion “loops” or plays of his video clips—hasn’t uploaded a new video since April.

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Could things have turned out differently? Perhaps, if Twitter had had more time and resources to spend developing the service. But now it is trying to cut costs, so that its balance sheet looks a little better both to investors and potential acquirers.

Some analysts believe that Periscope, another standalone service/app that Twitter acquired last year for $100 million, could also be either shut down or spun off by the company as it tries to refocus its efforts on shedding assets.

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