In a short and blunt answer, Vine has failed mainly because the app lacked monetization and advertising options, as well as facing a growing number of competitors with the rise of the short-video craze all over the web. Other reasons point to the fact that Twitter — its parent company since 2012 — had no bigger plans to expand Vine’s services and support its content creators, which led to an imminent failure in October 2016.
On the other hand, it’s evident that the Vine platform did well on its way to becoming one of the largest social media platforms up until 2015, one year before its failure. So, that brings the question of what went wrong, and how did one of the most popular video-sharing platforms go from this peak to total failure within just a year? Well, let’s explore this further.
Failure to Support Its Influencers
Despite the umbrella term “social media”, not all social media platforms operate with the same basic business model. Social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn focus on encouraging user interaction, whether through interpersonal communication or engagement between brands and buyers. On the other hand, media-sharing networks (like Vine, Snapchat, and YouTube) allow users to share pictures, music, and videos with their followers and other users on the platform.
Therefore, one of the key features of a media-sharing network is its strong dependence on the influencer-follower relationship. These networks compete not to attract just ordinary users, but also influencers who can help them attract a broader audience base. One of the key ways they do this is by offering competitive monetization models to users.
One of the primary issues with Vine was its failure to adequately monetize its services to favor its content creators. This lack of monetization encouraged a trend where top creators would use the platform to build a following before migrating to other media-sharing services that offered much better monetization options.
The fact that six-second videos created a very poor advertising system also meant that the platform struggled to attract ad revenue from various brands. After a failed last-ditch effort in 2916 by some top Viners to argue a better monetization deal from the platform, its top influencers left the platform in droves, ultimately sealing its fate.
Increasing Competition from Other Platforms
Even as the platform struggled with internal issues concerning monetization, leadership, and profitability, it also faced external challenges as well. Even though Vine started as the most popular proprietary short-form video hosting service, it soon started facing increasing competition from other video hosting services which offered longer format videos like Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. This trend, plus a failure to innovate, led to a steady shift of users from Vine to other media-sharing platforms.
A Failure to Innovate
The Vine platform overleveraged on its rapid growth and first-mover advantage, which may have been one of the reasons why the platform was slow to innovate and adapt to changing user preferences. Despite the increased calls for longer format videos and greater editing options, the platform failed to heed these outcries. However, their competitors took note of this and crafted services that more closely aligned with market preferences.
Another area where the company failed to innovate was in terms of platform monetization. Like many platforms that faced hypergrowth early on, Vine failed to innovate quickly enough to meet up with its rapid expansion. Therefore, its expenses quickly outstripped its current monetization model, and the service quickly became unprofitable.
Troubles With Leadership
Even before Twitter acquired the service, there was significant talk of personal clashes between the founders and friction at the very top of the management chain. After the acquisition, these issues were not addressed, and subsequently, two of the founders left the service within a year, while the third was let go by the Twitter board.
Lack of Support from its New Owners
After acquiring Vine for about $30 million in 2012, one would expect that Twitter had big plans for the service. However, what followed the acquisition was several changes in leadership, which led to a high turnover of personnel as well as a lack of coordinated vision on which direction to take the platform.
When the Twitter platform rolled out its own video service as well as purchased other video-sharing services like Periscope, it became clear that they had no genuine interest in promoting Vine. Eventually, the platform attempted to integrate all its video-sharing services, which was the final nail in the coffin for the Vine platform.
What Is the Vine App?
The Vine social app was designed as a short-form video hosting service that allowed users to share short six-second videos. It was founded by Dom Hofman, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll in June 2012 under the umbrella of Vine Labs, Inc. The service was purchased by social media giant Twitter later that year for a reported $30 million, before being launched officially in January 2013 as Vine.
The platform was initially released on iOS devices, before being made available to Android and Windows devices, and also released as a Vine web service. Vine initially saw rapid growth and was the most downloaded free app on the Apple App Store in 2013, making it the fastest-growing company in the world within that same year.
The platform under the ownership of Twitter initially experienced rapid development and innovation driven by the addition of various revolutionary features, which further cemented its position as the primary short-form video hosting service in the world. In 2015, it launched a children-friendly version known as Vine Kids to offer a platform that was safe for children and exposed them to a broader market. This was especially ingenious since the actual app was rated 17+, and over a quarter of their user fees were between the ages of 18 to 24.
By the end of 2015, the Vine platform had amassed over 200 million active users, and over 100 million users were accessing the platform every month. Through its “revine” feature (similar to the “retweet” concept employed by Twitter), their videos could be watched and shared quickly across several other social media platforms. This allowed them to truly capitalize on the concept of “viral” videos and helped their top users like Shawn Mendes, KingBach, Logan Paul, Brittany Furlan, and Lele Pons amass a massive follower base.
However, the Vine company soon noticed a sharp drop in popularity following its peak in early 2016. Increased competition from other platforms, as well as various other internal issues, which will be discussed later in the article, led to its sharp drop in popularity and usage. By October 2016, Twitter had halted uploads on the platform after over half of its top users shut down their accounts and migrated to other platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram.
This decline proved too precipitous for the Vine social media platform to recover from. After an initial attempt to revamp the service as Vine Camera in 2017 failed, the video service was eventually archived. Users were allowed access to old Vines as long as they had not been deleted or removed by the original owner. Currently, the platform has been officially disbanded by Twitter, and its fate remains unsure.
So What Lessons Can Be Learned From the Failure of Vine?
Picking out important lessons is even more important than highlighting the reasons why the Vine service failed. Though many key points can be extracted from this saga, several key learning points can be pointed out.
Silicon Valley is the global hub for innovation, both in terms of technology and business. Due to this, several revolutionary (and sometimes questionable) business trends have emerged from it. One of these trends is a single-minded obsession with growth and scaling, with no respect for profitability or sustainability.
Many well-known tech companies like Dropbox, Lyft, Peloton, and even Snapchat have failed to make a profit, despite raking in billions in revenue. While this model may work for some companies, it is not sustainable for most. Early monetization and sustainability should be one of the first targets of any tech company which seeks to succeed in this cutthroat industry.
The failure of the Vine platform to adapt to changing user and influencer preferences was undoubtedly the primary driving force behind its collapse. This may have stemmed from the platform’s overconfidence following its early successes or its almost unseen rate of growth. However, this dogmatism led to its demise.
Have a Coordinated Gameplan
One of the most frequently heard commentaries concerning the failure of Vine was its seeming lack of direction, especially concerning its leadership. This may have been due to several factors like poor leadership, lack of vision, and rapid growth without fully outlining the service’s business model and value propositions. A well-drawn-out business plan may have helped the company avoid many of these issues.
Who Were Vine Top Competitors?
Let’s take a look at some of the top competitors of the Vine video-hosting platform.
- TikTok: Though the TikTok platform was launched in the U.S. towards the tail end of the lifetime of the Vine platform, it also contributed to its reduced popularity. Within two years of its 2016 launch in the U.S., the platform had become the most downloaded app of 2018 (similar to Vine just a few years previously). However, unlike Vine, the venue quickly adapted to changing trends and monetized its services to maintain its influencer base and profitability.
- YouTube: Even though YouTube has also made a foray into the short-form video market with the release of its YouTube Shorts service in 2021, it first made a name for itself by offering long-form videos. This helped it carve out a niche for itself within the market, as well as attract users and influencers who preferred longer format video content.
- Instagram: Instagram is another service that was a key competitor to the Vine platform. Unlike Twitter, which failed to give Vine the necessary support and room to grow, Facebook made sure that their $1 billion purchase of Instagram in 2012 was not wasted by allowing the social media platform to carve out a niche in the media sharing industry. In 2020 Instagram launched the Instagram Reels service, which further cemented its interest in short-form video hosting.
- Twitter: By releasing its own video service, Twitter became one of the top competitors to the Vine platform. Further, integrating the services between both platforms only served to reduce the uniqueness of the Vine service and its relevance. This might have been counterintuitive because the Twitter platform owns the Vine service. However, they may have simply been using the purchase of the service to build their popularity and, at the same time, buy out the competition.
- Snapchat: Snapchat was one of the critical companies that contributed to the downfall of Vine. This was because it offered influencers a favorable monetization model, which attracted them to the platform. It also provided a much wider range of video editing services and longer video formats, which were in line with changing user preferences.
What Is the Future of Vine?
For now, nobody is sure of what the future holds in store for Vine. With the recent acquisition of the Twitter platform by Elon Musk in 2022, there has been renewed interest in revising the service. Musk himself has hinted at this in various tweets, and surveys carried out on Twitter. However, he also made it clear that the platform would not be revamped unless the initial issues which plagued its first launch, such as monetization, were fully addressed.
The End of an Era
Vine was indeed one of the defining phenomena of the 2010s. Its failure also marked the end of an undisputed era of short-form content creation and ushered in a host of other forms of media-sharing platforms. No one is yet to know what the future holds in store for the platform. Still, its story serves as a cautionary tale to both old and new social media platforms about the dangers of a failure to adapt, innovate, monetize, and guide your platform toward a specified goal.