Jan 30, 2013

Vine's Dim Prospects

Vine, the new video microblogging service from Twitter (it allows users to post videos of 6 seconds or less) is an interesting idea, but I suspect it has too many fatal flaws both in the concept and in the execution, in order for it to take off in the time frame we’ve come to expect from overhyped technology.

Vine’s biggest initial hurdle-- the spate of bad publicity it’s getting from the fact that it’s taken over Chatroulette’s position as the Penis Network can easily be overcome by the institution of some stricter TOS policies and more active policing. But Vine’s problems run deeper.

To begin with, videos, even six second videos, are a big time investment. Psychologically, you need to make a commitment to watching a video. You can’t scan it the way you scan a page of text or even photos. That’s slightly less true with 6 second videos than with longer pieces, but it's still going to be a huge issue for Vine in the early days, when most of the videos are going to be banal experiments.

The other issue weighing against Vine is the learning curve. The traditional method of shooting and editing video is to overshoot and then edit: 60 seconds of video becomes 6. 

Vine is not set up that way. You can't edit, so you need to pick your 6 seconds carefully. It’s a skill and a challenge, more difficult than limiting messages to 140 characters (where you can always use abbreviations), more artistic than picking one of 10 photo filters.

That alone will prevent most people from using it: there’s no room in their already busy lives for yet another piece of technology, particularly one whose functionality is limited to artistic expression in a medium whose techniques are still not innately familiar the way photography is.

When adoption and use drop precipitously after the initial honeymoon stage (and they will) Vine will be branded a failure. Which is too bad, because it’s a fascinating concept and there are people who’ll see shooting video in six uneditable seconds as a challenge and they’ll start to create something interesting, a whole new video language if we’re lucky.

That may take a year of two to happen, which is forever in internet time. Let’s hope that Vine is able to hold on that long. Or if not Vine, then something a lot like it.

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