Social networks are like a box of chocolates: I don’t have a second part for that analogy because I haven’t eaten yet and I can’t think clearly on an empty stomach.
Vine is the latest offering in social media, and follows all the traditional steps of major social networks: simple design, decent funding, and early adoption by Mark Hoppus. The basic idea is that by using your smartphone’s camera, you create 4-6 second videos that you then share with the other 19 people who are on Vine. It’s like instagram but for videos, much in the same way instagram was like twitter but for pictures and twitter was like facebook but without everyone getting engaged all the damn time. Everyone wants to have the hot new social media service, but does Vine have what it takes to be the next big thing — or at least avoid the same fate as Path? I have no idea, but here’s a few things I noticed after a couple weeks of usage.
• It ain’t easy (being green?)
The first (and arguably most important thing) that popped out to me about Vine is that…it’s really kind of difficult to make interesting content. Maybe it’s just because it’s a medium I’m not used to, video directors might have an easier time with it, but I’ve found it sort of challenging to make something more interesting than, say, a quick montage of me making breakfast or something like that. With a tweet or a picture, it can be a little bit more stream of consciousness or in the moment and still be a bit interesting, creating something clever or fun on Vine takes more planning and thought. And if there’s one thing we know about the world of social media, it’s that users prefer putting as little thought into things as possible. Now that said, there are some incredibly cool videos on Vine, but they are few and far between and have a much higher time of production than an equally clever tweet might.
• You do it to yourself.
One of the big selling points of instagram is that you can post pictures of yourself (#selfie) and have friends or strangers “like” it in real time. This is narcissism in its purest form, and it is magical. Oh sure, some more advanced users might disguise their selfies as a picture of their mail that they’re behind, or a puppy they’re holding, but get real, we know what’s up. With Vine, it’s much more difficult to blatantly post something self-centered and have it look cool or receive the same level of positive feedback. This could be a big hindrance to adoption for social media’s target demographic: vain college-age girls and me.
• A rose by any other name…
This is one of those sort of minor things that might get worked out in forthcoming updates, but I can’t really figure out what my Vine name is. Like I think it might be my real name, but then it also kind of uses my email address, but then it also imported my information from twitter…so I’m a bit confused on how exactly people find me if they don’t already know me. Am I @ocdustino? Am I Dustin Heveron? Am I firstname.lastname@example.org? Hard to say for sure, and the last thing you want is it to be hard to find your favorite people on a new social network. Although I will say there’s a decent “find your friends” via the usual twitter/facebook/contacts that makes it easier to get started, but what then?
• Sharing is caring.
One of my gripes with instagram is that there isn’t really a great “share” feature. Like the photo-equivalent of a retweet — if I see a picture that’s particularly awesome, I’d like to be able to share it to my followers so then they might have a chance to follow some of the awesome photographers that I do.Obviously instagram is getting along just fine without this feature, but it’s one of those things that makes it easier to find engaging content and the more you engage your users, the more time they spend on your app/site, etc. etc. Vine (at least for now) also lacks this feature, which means if you’re not one of the couple dozen people I follow (or the admittedly cool “Editor’s Pick” videos that are auto-loaded into your stream) then I don’t really have any way of seeing your video, short of bouncing around through hashtags…but we all know that friend recommendations are much better for finding content you’ll actually like versus just filtering through things at random. This also means that I can check Vine once every two or three days, and not really miss that much. As a new social network, you can’t afford that have that sort of lag for your users.
• Can you hear me now?
This is an admittedly small, nit-picky issue to bring up, but since Vine is video it uses picture AND sound, which means I have to take my phone off silent and either mute or pause whatever else I’m doing so I can get the full Vine experience. This isn’t the end of the world, obviously, but again if we’re comparing it to the other most popular social networks, I don’t have to stop listening to music to tweet/facebook/instagram/foursquare, and when you’re a startup in the social media game, anything that makes your user hesitate before checking in is putting you at a disadvantage. Man there were a lot of commas in that sentence. My English professor would be pissed.
• Save me!
Last and probably least, when composing your Vine video, there’s no save or draft feature. This means that I’ve had some pretty cool videos started, but then due to the time necessary between shots (i.e. at home then cutting to at the beach) I’ve had the app close out or lose my footage, which I then have no way to get back, thus scrapping my video. Also, it would be nice to have some way to import previously recorded videos into the app (the same way you can use previously taken photos in instagram) so that way you can capture a cool moment without necessarily knowing how you’re gonna incorporate that moment into your video.
Who knows? Maybe in a year’s time, Vine will be the only app any of us use and I’ll look like guy who said “there’s no way Joe Flacco will ever win a Super Bowl or be the highest paid player in the NFL”, or maybe it’ll be the next big flop. Either way, bust out your iPhone (I’m not sure if they have it for Android yet), take some videos, and let me know what cool things you think Vine is capable of doing. Just go easy on the naked vids, ok? They flag for that sort of thing (trust me).