Vine toddled into its second year of life on Friday with a birthday retrospective of some of the video-sharing app's greatest hits.
The clips are evidence of how Vine became such a smash hit in 2013--they're short, they're creative, they're funny. But they also show how basic the app remains a year on, and where it has room to grow.
Vine has come a long way since Twitter launched the app on iOS last January. Its six-second looping videos instantly drew comedians and animators along with plenty of regular, unfunny folks. Once people got used to Vine's format, the app began rolling out improvements: an Android app, Channels for easier discovery, the ability to revine clips, editing tools, and Web profiles so you can actually easily see past Vines and find users.
The app also managed to fend off Instagram video, the launch of which could've signaled the end for Vine.
But has Vine peaked? The app now hangs out at No. 34 in the free section of iTunes, which isn't terrible, but it lags behind Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other popular social apps. Vine also remains in Google Play's top rankings, but it's unclear exactly how many people actually use the app --at last count, in August, it had 40 million registered users. It's clearly the most popular social video app, and its users are devoted. But Vine needs to continually improve, with Twitter's help, to climb back up the charts and prove it's no six-second, one-trick pony.
3 ways for Vine to step it up
More editing tools: Users have plumbed the depths of Vine's incredibly limited format in creative ways, but it's time for the app to offer more to work with. An October update introduced the Time Travel tool that lets you move, replace, or delete shots, which is handy for editing, That was a great start. Other professional elements that would help Vine: camera stabilization, slow-motion or black-and-white effects, or anything to elevate amateur clips into something more visually appealing.
Leverage Twitter's TV partnerships: Imagine an app where you can see the best six seconds of a football game, an awards show, or a film clip--like GIFs but better. Vine could leverage Twitter's second-screen push and its powerful media partnerships to be the place to go when you want to capture and share a moment from the cultural zeitgeist. Media companies could share their own clips or provide footage that Vine users could manipulate in fun, interesting ways. The viral possibilities are endless for a six-second Super Bowl clip that came straight from the source, not shoddily recorded from someone's TV.
Higher quality content: Vine risks becoming the shorter, looping version of YouTube, a place where every random person thinks they can become a viral superstar. If that's Vine's goal, then so be it. But the app can obviously inspire higher art, and finding that should be easier. Give comedians, musicians, and uber-talented unknowns more exposure with better curation on Vine's end. Channels and trending tags are great for discovery, but Editors' Picks would be even better. A scroll through the most popular videos in Vine's Special FX channel turned up only a few clips that actually featured special effects--the rest were randos trying to recruit followers (the worst kind of social networking behavior).
Vine had a blockbuster first year, but to keep the momentum going, it needs to innovate. If the app gives creators more options and better ways to get discovered, its second year might just trump its first.