One Year In, Vine’s Battle Has Just Begun

Tomorrow, Vine will celebrate its first birthday.

Celebrating in our own way, we asked Vine’s GM and co-founder Colin Kroll about the last year of Vine, and what to expect in the future. He said one thing that really surprised him about Vine was how people collaborated within the app, and how interested people were to “hardware hack” with camera accessories.

“One thing that I find particularly interesting, and unique to Vine, is the elaborate collaborations and cameos that continue to spring up on the service,” said Kroll. “Also, early on, we saw people pushing the boundaries of Vine through hardware hacks, like adding a fisheye lens to their phone’s camera or using iPhone tripods for stabilization.”

That said, Vine has expedited the growth process with the help of Twitter’s built-in platform, and is now a mature social network. That brings the company to a new phase that isn’t just concerned with growth, but perhaps monetization. When asked what year two holds for Vine, Kroll was all about discovery.

“This year, we’re really focused on making it easier to discover those videos and find new accounts,” said Kroll.

The six-second video sharing app has had one heck of a year under Twitter’s watchful eye, so we thought it was interesting to take a look back at some of the service’s ups and downs.

A Look Back

As you may very well remember, Vine was acquired by Twitter before it ever even launched. When the app launched, it only took a day to swing to the top of social in the App Store.

But with any instantly popular social media service, Vine grew a porn problem less than a week after launch. In fact, it got so out of control that a hard-core porn video was posted to Editors’ Picks, Vine’s main discovery feed for popular videos.

The company immediately apologized and explained that human error was the cause of the accident. As punishment, Apple kicked Vine out of the App Store.

To make matters worse, Vine also experienced its first service outage that week.

But by day seven, Vine had already grown bigger than its next closest competitors.

Following a whirlwind first week, Vine implemented a 17+ age rating in February to keep things kosher, and by March, Vine’s dominance over competitors like SocialCam, Viddy, and others was apparent.

So Vine partnered with The Tribeca Film Festival to launch its own 6-second films competition. It was a huge success.

Just after the two-month mark, Vine released an update that supported video embeds, as well as more integrated sharing on Facebook and Twitter, and by early April, Vine hit number one in the App Store.

This was all less than six months after being acquired by Twitter, mind you, and less than three months after launching.

On April 30, Vine released its second major update, adding user mentions and front-facing camera support, just as I had predicted.

By then, brands, and especially movie studios, were anxious to leverage the network.

Once summer rolled around, Vine had picked up steam. The team announced 13 million users in Early June, along with the launch of the Android app.

It only took a week for the app to surpass Instagram on Google Play’s social charts.

But Instagram had its own plan. Facebook’s photo-sharing phenom launched Instagram Video on June 20, and many thought it would be the end of Vine.

But Vine fought back.

In fact, Vine had gotten so popular by the summer that photographers had found a way to make a decent living by just creating vines for brands.

In July, Vine launched a massive update that totally redesigned the camera, added helpful features for hard-core viners and stop-animation enthusiasts, and added channels to help with discovery.

By summer’s end, Vine had topped 40 million users.

Dealing with the pushback of Instagram video, and learning from Instagram’s successes and failures, Vine launched an update in October that let users save drafts and edit videos for the very first time, conceding a bit to Instagram Video’s rules.

And just in time for Thanksgiving, Vine launched on Windows Phone. The team spent the rest of the winter focused on growth, launching the app inĀ web profiles just after the new year.

Looking Forward

It was a lively first year, but what lies ahead?

Instagram continues to grow, and continues to pose a competitive threat against Twitter’s video service. And to make matters worse, Snapchat surely grabs a chunk of the video pie. Personally, snapvids are some of my favorite because they are so real and uninhibited and the closest to living an experience IRL.

And then of course there are existing competitors like Viddy and SocialCam and Cinemagram lagging far behind, alongside a new crop of video sharing startups trying to add music tracks to videos.

It’s getting crowded.

And it only makes sense. Video is the new frontier.

Remember when YouTube came to the internet? And watching video, posting video, sharing video on the internet actually became a relevant thing?

We’re on the precipice of a new period in mobile multimedia. The same way Instagram and Facebook and Twitter have asked us to take and upload more photos than we ever have before, apps like Vine and perhaps Instagram and Google and many, many others are heading off to war. The war for our mobile video.

Video has already infiltrated verticals like dating, professional networking, and moving. And there are even hardware developers looking to leverage our growing addiction to video via mobile. The space is up for grabs.

And while Vine has a solid position now under the care of Twitter, the space will only continue to grow more crowded.

Instagram Video is different from Vine, in a lot of ways. Instagram caters to a more sporadic, casual video experience than Vine’s more hardcore base of creators. Still, the media weapons of Twitter and Facebook will obviously be battling over user mindshare and splitting engagement.

Snapchat is also quite different, with far fewer tools to make professional-looking videos but an added benefit of privacy and ephemerality. Again, Snapchat will continue to grow and steal video-hungry eyes.

That could split again if a major player lands a smash-hit in video. Like, oh I don’t know, Google with YouTube. Imagine if Google+ started out as a way to easily shoot and share your own feed of videos on YouTube mobile. Perhaps people would actually be hanging out there.

Moving forward, Google is certainly working on personalizing and perfecting YouTube’s channels.

But all that said, the future also holds the promise of even more mobile video players, both as consumers and creators.

In 2014, Vine could benefit from deeper integration with Twitter. Twitter could add Vine as an option in the media creation section of a draft, where you can take or add photos. An app within an app-type thing. Vine videos could also be formatted differently within the Twitter feed on mobile, to take up more of the screen and grab more attention.

And alongside integration with the growing Twitter network, Vine would also cultivate a strong user base through excellent discovery tools, something they’ve been working on for a while.

As social networks like Instagram and Vine mature, they become competitive landscapes for social media celebrities and brands. Getting on the popular page can make or break a user, but at a certain point it’s nearly impossible to get enough momentum to beat a user with a huge following.

If Vine can continue to offer new and up-and-coming users to “make it” on the site and grow the following, it will create even more loyal users in the long term. Luckily, Kroll confirmed that this is a focus going into the next year.

Right now, Vine appears to have a bit of critical momentum in the creator space. Its limited scope and creative-friendly toolset have made it a place where interesting stuff gets made and posted. Whether that’s enough to fend off old rivals and new entrants remains to be determined, but it should be an interesting year for video services either way.

Image modified from a photo by Vivian D Nguyen