When it comes to social imagery Twitter have broken new ground, or at least made it a lot softer. Today, they have introduced a GIF-beating social video platform. Potentially, this means companies such as tweetgif.com have no frame to loop on. GIFs dominate the social internet, meaning Twitter can own this content and I imagine will change their privacy terms to eventually capitalise on it financially. However, they aren't Facebook, so we might be alright. The new service allows users to post 6-second video clips that play on a loop. Why? It's all about monopolising the social internet. If Twitter now ports these GIF-like videos through their service, you're not going elsewhere for your daily antidote of a dog on a trampoline. What's interesting, and perhaps a little confusing from a monopolistic point of view, is that Vine is a separate app which allows Facebook integration. Why they haven't bundled it into your Twitter app baffles me, I can hear “Oh I can't be bothered with that” echoing across the social planet. I presume the lawyers are still processing their billion dollar takeover, leaving us with the original standalone app. Twitter originally banned animated gifs as profile pictures, so it would be an interesting back track should they allow us to Vine ourselves. I sincerely hope we don't revert to the '90s with flames and falling snow as people's avatars.
Twitter is reinventing televisual interaction and news, so why aren't we worrying?
You only have to be sitting through the seemingly innocent marathon of Channel 4's 'Sunday Brunch' to be force fed hashtags and social engagement. They latch onto you, force you to send in your photos and hashtag which presenter you'd prefer to see in y-fronts come the end of the show. Sky's 'Sunday Supplement', of which you'd expect dry, serious football commentary, integrates viewer's Tweets into their show. Albeit usually from Joey Barton, the layman is now able to participate in professional tactical football debates. Either the pundits thought I'd enjoy a middle-aged, “I had trials you know”, beer-bellied man Tweeting something he read in the Daily Star, or they genuinely have nothing to talk about. News channels and newspapers frequently use Rio Ferdinand as a reliable source for their who-really-gives-a-shit-what-that-football-player-is-doing stories. Why? Because we're all so interested, stupid. I'm not, and I'd prefer to read news provided by an actual journalist.
What does this mean for how Vine is treated? Well, if we're already being provided with 'news' in the form of celebrity Tweets, their videos will be gold dust. It might not be so hollow though. A 6 second snap of the war zone over in North Africa could tie together the seemingly ineffable and shocking facts being broadcast. Or, how about when Usain Bolt breaks the 6 second 100m barrier, someone has Vined it on their iPhone? By this time, I'm predicting that there will be Instagram style editing for these, but we can all hope that this doesn't happen. For the sake of our eyes.
I see Vine mainly being used for either a new tool for 'trolling', but on an even bigger scale than through text or image. Conversely, it could become a now credible excuse for news content. What is also possible, as long as the service is marketed heavily and not another Pinterest-style flash in the pan, is it creating a new sub-genre of 'vlogging'. With sound being an option, instructions for how to make an omelete, or how you bend a ball into the top right hand corner every time can be reduced to the bare minimum content necessary. This is potentially very powerful as online consumers now want everything to be short, snappy and to the point. Film makers of the future, it's your time to illustrate your post-modern social brevity and shine*. Or, if you're in a sickly-sweet relationship you can Vine your girlfriend a clip of you picking up a bunch of her favourite flowers. Don't do that though.
In true Twitter style, the app interface is slick and pretty. Twitter are generally ahead of the game when it comes to web-design and web-standards, so I'm hardly surprised here. The login screen utilises a very 'in' video splash background, and the login process, although necessarily lengthy (Twitter or Facebook account integration, push notifications, location tracking), is fine as your account is set up through either a Facebook or Twitter profile.
Creating your Vine is not just a case of pressing record and sponging up 6 seconds of you trying to line up your index finger and thumb to your friends head whose sitting across the room. You actually tap the screen for every new 'scene'. This is a feature I'd expect from version 2, but as this is Twitter, I'm not surprised. This innovation does allow you to instantiate these 'scenes' to create surprisingly detailed mini-clips.
As a user-facing name, Vine doesn't arouse the hopeful, 'let's all skip Kevin Bacon and become one big interweb of love' subtext, but sends my pessimism into overload. The potential here for social strangling on a massive scale is mind bending. Yes, you can humour your friends with funny animations, but I'm surprised no one has picked up on the social-bullying potential here. What happens when a 6-second video clip of a politician sifting through some 'sensitive' documents ends up not only as a Tweet, but as a feature on the news. We're treading new ground, and there doesn't seem anything in the way from stopping it becoming a lethal tool. 2013 will be the year of 'Vinegate', don't tell me I didn't warn you.