Vine Isn’t Actually Shutting Down, Quite

December 17, 2016, 7:02 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

In a befuddling turn, Vine announced yesterday that the app’s widely mourned death has been at least slightly exaggerated.

Rather than shutting down completely, next January the Vine app will become Vine Camera, which will still allow users to make the six-second looping videos that made Vine a hit. Users will be able to either post the videos to Twitter or save them to their phone. Vines will loop on Twitter just as they did on the Vine app. Vine Camera will also direct Vine users to follow each other on Twitter.

Perhaps thanks to vagueness in the original closure announcement, some outlets reported that creation of new Vines had already been halted. But yesterday’s announcement encourages users to “continue making and sharing videos” on Twitter.

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Vine, then, will go from a standalone network, to a different way to post to Twitter. That’s a good thing, but it’s coming as a late-game afterthought. Using Vine to give Twitter better video features could have helped the platform face off against Facebook and Snapchat—if they’d tried it in 2013. Instead, it took Twitter a mind-boggling three years to even allow users to link their Twitter and Vine accounts.

Deeper management issues aside, this feels like a tremendous PR misstep. The narrative of Vine shutting down contributed to the overall sense of Twitter as a rudderless and declining operation on its way to also-ran status in the social media ecosystem. Many stories about the shutdown focused on it as a cost-cutting measure, with Vine’s server and staffing costs apparently too much for Twitter’s balance sheet to handle.

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Reframing the change as an attempt to more tightly knit Vine into Twitter wouldn’t have completely obscured that reality, but at least it wouldn’t have been such an open admission of defeat. It could have even looked like a positive for whatever Vine talent hadn’t already joined this year’s mass exodus.

There are no details of how the integration will work on the Twitter side. Though Vine’s withering makes it unlikely that Twitter will be flooded with looping videos, even a modest influx could be a headache for users who prefer Twitter’s current text-centric environment. That conundrum, of course, highlights one of Twitter’s persistent problems—a continuing lack of clarity about exactly what the platform is supposed to be.

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