The arrival of a video capture option on photo-sharing kingpin Instagram was met with a lot of mobile users heralding the death of Vine. The #byevine tag exploded to more than 6,000 Instagram posts of people deleting the Vine app or pledging to ditch Twitter‘s video-sharing community. Was this the death knell?
Partisanship is taking hold. #teamvine and #teaminstagram tags are spreading on both platforms. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Both services will coexist in rivalry, if not harmony.
Many have made the case for Vine users to switch over. Here’s why they shouldn’t.
— Craig Kanalley (@ckanal) June 20, 2013
Vine is the better platform for my money.
Instagram’s got a few things going for it: more freedom in 15 seconds of video; image stabilization; the option to delete the last shot you took; the massive 130 million-strong community; and, of course, filters. Those goddamn filters.
But, on the other hand…
1) Culture of creativity
Look at how Facebook and Twitter pitched their respective video services. It reveals how each wanted its videos to be used, and whether that’s proven to be true.
“Like Tweets, the brevity of videos on Vine (six seconds or less) inspires creativity. Now that you can easily capture motion and sound, we look forward to seeing what you create,” said Michael Sippey, vice president of product at Twitter (emphasis mine).
“Instagram has become a community where you can capture and share the world’s moments simply and beautifully. Some moments, however, need more than a static image to come to life,” announced Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram.
See the difference? Instagram wants to be the method for capturing your life, a stream of whatever’s in front of you—whether that’s the view of your legs and a book at the beach or blurry image macros ripped from Facebook.
Vine, on the other hand, aims to inspire creativity. Over the last five months, the community’s become a hotbed for weird, funny, off-kilter clips as comedians, artists, and those with time to spare have tested out a new platform to see what they can do with it. It has its own popular tags, especially #howto, in which users typically provide an offbeat take on a life lesson.
The different cultures of Vine and Instagram are the most important distinction between the two. The shorter time limit on vines (six seconds, compared to 15 for Instagram) forces users to be more creative in conveying a message. The medium is especially friendly to amateur stop-motion animators—like Congressman Jared Huffman, who used Vine to protest a $2 billion-per-year cut to the federal food stamp program.
That’s not to say Weird Instagram isn’t a thing, and there isn’t going to be some crossover between the cultures of each community. But on a basic level, Vine will become the home for short-video artists, and Instagram will host home movies. One is a late-night sketch-comedy show; the other is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—heartwarming and important to the lives of the people involved, but not much of a cultural contribution.
2) Instagram’s diluting the experience
Some Instagramers are complaining that video is detracting from the simplicity of its photo feed. That’s a fair point.
Video and photography are two completely different art forms. Fusing them into a single feed is distracting when you don’t know which you’re going to see next. It’s disruptive to the overall experience.
It can be only a matter of time before we see strangers on the bus furiously tapping at a photo trying to get it to play, when all they’re doing is inadvertently liking an image with a double tap.
Or, more likely, if autoplay isn’t turned off, they’ll be pausing every clip.
3) Vine is more visible, and it actually works
Instagram video had a major drawback for myself and many other users: The videos just don’t work in the app. I’ve had to paste the link into a mobile Web browser to watch them. The clips don’t work in Twitter apps like Tweetbot and even in Twitter’s own iOS app, where clicking an Instagram link simply takes you to a page where you see a video’s cover photo; the clip doesn’t play.
The only third-party Instagram Web viewer I’ve seen videos working on is Ink361.com. That, Instagram’s website, and videos shared on Facebook, are my only options for viewing the videos right now.
Vines, on the other hand, are more visible. They work directly within tweets, are easily embeddable, and even work when you click on a Vine link in Instagram. Astonishing. True, it often takes a while for the Vine app to load properly, but at least the videos work as they should.
4) Instagram’s community management stinks. Also, porn
Instagram’s never been much keen on nudity in the community, wielding its powers of deletion and banning on violators. Importantly, nor has parent company Facebook, the blue elephant in the room (hey, there are shareholders to keep happy).
It’s not just nekkid people either. Instagram’s blocked many hashtags from appearing in search results, from sex-related tags down to #scumbagsteve, the star of a popular meme. For a time, it reportedly blocked every tag that included the word “ass,” including innocuous tags like #classroom, #passport, and #grass. You can’t even search #instagram for some reason.
Vine’s a bit more lax. It’s also better managed. While it took steps to decrease the porn’s visibility by blocking some tags, it allows nudity and sex to remain on the platform. It overlays an explicit content warning on X-rated vines, but allows it to remain.
Certainly, it’s important to keep porn, amateur and otherwise, away from the eyes of minors as best as possible. But as long as there are services which let people post whatever they feel like, people will get naked. They will share videos of themselves having sex.
Neither Vine nor Instagram will knowingly allow users to flaunt the law in their communities, whether through illicit imagery or otherwise. Vine’s just that bit more open than Instagram.
5) Catch-up, not copycat
Both Vine and Instagram aren’t founded on unique ideas. They weren’t the first to the mobile photo- and video-sharing dances, but boogied better than anyone else. They made sharing videos and photos from phones faster, easier, and more fun. To accuse Instagram of being a copycat kind of misses the point.
Video on Instagram was always going to happen. Systrom admitted it was something he and cofounder Mike Krieger discussed when building Instagram in the first place, but they decided to focus on photos. That was smart, and they’ve reaped the rewards of that with an astonishingly loyal community of Instagrammers.
However, Instagram’s now in a position of playing catch-up in its latest venture. Vine has proven a clear success over the last few months, racking up millions of users and millions of vines a day. The culture fostered there in such a short span of time is fascinating, taking us not only into the lives, but the minds of its users.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III