This is today’s good news: The vine will (probably) rise from the ashes. The application that allowed sharing short crazy videos was popular from 2012 to 2017. That year, it was stopped in its tracks and decommissioned (as many wanted). This finish helped the tool earn a special place in the hearts of many millennials as the glorious last bastion of the social web before it became commoditized and all apps started to look alike. Vine shows what the Internet could have been or what it has become.
“There are a few things Internet users around the planet can agree on. However, almost everyone is nostalgic for Vine,” said Jessica Maddox, assistant professor in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of ‘Alabama. The fact that so many people are still interested in Vine may just be the reason why Elon Musk – who has faced a lot of criticism since he took over Twitter and is making both drastic staff cuts and a troubling change in policies in using the social network – plan to give the application a second life.
Like many decisions made by Elon Musk throughout the process of his acquisition of Twitter, this idea was first expressed by a survey he did with his Twitter followers. On October 31, the billionaire asked his followers if he should bring back Vine. The tool was bought by Twitter in 2012 before its launch. As of this writing, more than four million people have voted. Result: 69.9% of them are in favor of Vine’s return.
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Hours later, Axios reported that Twitter engineers had been ordered to review Vine’s code base in preparation for a planned relaunch this year. Asked, Twitter did not respond to interview requests from MIT Technology Review.
Faced with this news of a potential revival, Sara Beykpour, who has been the technical lead for the Android version of Vine, is a bit perplexed. “This code is over six years old. Some lines are over 10 years old,” she tweeted. “To revive Vine, you have to start over.” Sara Beykpour did not respond to our requests.
Having to modify 10-year-old code to launch the tool is not a prospect that would deter Elon Musk. The app, while riding the wave of nostalgia, is unlikely to attract users who have since moved on to TikTok. This social network is in a way the spiritual successor of Vine. “Since Vine, platforms have evolved: we are no longer talking about simple social applications,” explains Carlos Pacheco, consultant on audience and monetization of social networks. “TikTok’s model of an entertainment-friendly algorithm and app platform represents the new normal.”
In addition to having to modernize the old code, the Twitter engineers responsible for reviving Vine had to find a way to compete with TikTok. The billion users on TikTok far outnumber the several hundred million active tweeters on Twitter. Its success is due in large part to its unparalleled ability to provide web users with content they want to see before they even know it. The app achieved this through machine learning algorithms trained over the years with a Chinese twin app named Douyin.
The gap in algorithmic power between ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, and its competitors so far is what has left Reels on Instagram and YouTube Shorts with no choice but to fight for second place.
The most influential creators on Vine are asking for a big check
Much has been written about Vine’s untimely demise, but few know the circumstances as well as Karyn Spencer, Vine’s first and only Head of Creator Development from August 2015 until the app was discontinued in January 2017. .
Within weeks of leading Vine, Karyn Spencer was tasked with stemming the decline in user numbers and defusing the ire of the most influential content creators. The latter asked for $1.2 million each to create videos on the app. He faces a big problem: Twitter is reluctant to pay one of its Vine stars in exchange for their content, for fear of creating a precedent by paying creators to publish on platforms of it and therefore it will continue on Twitter. The fear is that paying 18 of Vine’s biggest names for their posts will open the floodgates and millions of Twitter influencers, with massive followings, will line up to get paid.
At the time, Vine and Twitter were both posting losses, and Twitter executives holding the purse strings worried that both would start losing money quickly to content creators. “When they knocked on Vine’s door and said they needed monetization to continue creating content on the platform, [les patrons de Twitter] wondered, ‘What if people wanted to get paid every time they tweeted?'” says Karyn Spencer.
He and his team tried to explain to executives that there was a difference in the perception of the time needed to create the two types of content, but this problem caused the death of Vine under the direction of Twitter, believes Karyn Spencer, who says “there was never a monetization roadmap” for the app. “The main problem is money,” added Carlos Pacheco. “Creators wanted to get a partnership program like YouTube. That didn’t happen and where did the creators end up? On YouTube.”
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Today, creators no longer create content for free. Carlos Pacheco clarified that he works with “a whole bunch” of content creation companies currently operating within the YouTube ecosystem that refuse to create content for YouTube Shorts or TikTok mainly because these platforms cannot guarantee a decent income for this content. “Vine collapsed and was closed by Twitter for several reasons. The main reasons are the strong competition as well as the lack of possibility for establishing monetization and advertising”, details Jessica Maddox.
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All these questions arise more seriously today at a time when the influencer industry has become established and the biggest names on social media platforms have become millionaires. “Content creator” has become a profession and people are now paid to tweet after signing commercial agreements with brands or for sponsored posts.
“Today, you can’t build a creator-based video platform without opportunities for content monetization,” said Karyn Spencer. However, things are not as simple as “create it and they will come”. “It’s important to remember that today’s influencers need a good creative product and a good audience, the right support from the team managing the partnership as well as legitimate monetization opportunities,” he said. At a time when Elon Musk is looking to reduce Twitter to allow the company to be viable, working on these elements may not be a priority.
For Karyn Spencer, politics and Elon Musk himself are key variables in the equation. Elon Musk’s brash public persona may deter some from taking the risk of creating content for another app. “But almost every influencer I know drives a Tesla,” he says. “So I don’t think they are against Elon’s involvement in such an operation.”
Article by Chris Stokel-Walker, translated from English by Kozi Pastakia.
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