Four years ago — before Snapchat, Facebook Live, or Instagram video — Twitter bought a three-man video sharing startup called Vine, which allowed users to create and share six-second videos. After launching in January 2013, and a lot of initial popularity among teens and millennials, Vine lost its luster and its six seconds of fame came to an end.
Today, Twitter is calling it quits on Vine. A few hours after reporting better than expected quarterly earnings, the company announced that it was pulling the plug in a post on Medium. The announcement to kill Vine comes on the heels of news that Twitter is cutting 9 percent of its staff, or roughly 350 jobs.
“What’s next? We’ll be working closely with creators to make sure your questions are answered and will work hard to do this the right way,” the company said. “We’ll be sharing more details on this blog and our Twitter account, and will notify you through the app when we start to change things.”
Though Twitter never created the kinds of advertising products needed to make Vine into a real moneymaker, it’s hard to overstate the six-second video service’s cultural impact.
Vine created a whole new set of celebrities (the “Vine star”) and became a hub for black culture on the Internet. It laid the foundation for the kinds of stars that use Instagram or Snapchat today, and even until the bitter end, Vine was among the top 25 most-downloaded video apps on the iOS App Store.
But over the last year and a half, Vine has been, well, withering. More and more people turned to apps and services like Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram. And as early as last December, Vine only accounted for four percent of “branded video” on new media platforms.
According to data from the analytics service AppAnnie, Vine hovered around the top 40 and 50 most-downloaded iOS apps for most of this year. Since mid-August, however, Vine’s download numbers slipped dramatically, and the service is currently around the 250th most downloaded iOS app.
“Vine stars,” or “creators” as they’re called by people in the industry, have been bearish on Vine for a while; as one rep for high-profile Vine stars put it to VICE News in an interview, “Creators abandoned Vine a long time ago.”
Meanwhile Facebook began cutting hefty checks to celebrities and other social media stars to get them to livestream on Facebook. Snapchat offered an even younger, faster-growing audience, and both Instagram and Facebook introduced newer monetization tools. It certainly didn’t help Vine that Twitter ultimately introduced its own video product, with a much longer time limit.
Kendall Ostrow, who works with celebrities and new media stars at the Hollywood powerhouse United Talent Agency, said over text message that Vine stars learned pretty early on not to put all their eggs in the Vine basket, pointing to MySpace as an example.
“Creators have to build a city, not one tower. Musicians learned that the hard way in the days of MySpace,” Ostrow said. “Bands built their business solely off the community on MySpace — instead of also using websites, newsletters, Facebook pages, etc. When their fans deserted MySpace, they didn’t stop being fans of those bands, but the bands lost their ability to contact their supporters. If you count on one platform, you’re vulnerable to shifts in consumer behavior.”