Friday, January 25, 2013

Vine -- The "Instagram for Video" Holy Grail? My Verdict

REVISED 1/25/13 at 3:55 pm PT

My TechCrunch guest post titled "Instagram for Video -- Music, Meaning & Moments Succeed Where Others Fail" -- went live this past weekend and generated a lot of interest in a topic that is obviously top of mind (judging by the over 600 retweets).  Bottom line -- the race to be the next "Instagram for Video" is on.

Since my post went live just a few days back, several important and relevant developments -- most notably, that Twitter's "Vine" video sharing app is live as of today and available via the App Store.  The screaming headlines are that Vine is video sharing made fun and easy -- all in 6 seconds (the mandatory length of videos that can be created).

No more.  No less.  6 seconds it is.  Take it or leave it.

So, how do I think Vine measures up -- especially with my inherent skepticism over this 6 second rule?

I was on a mission -- I had to know.  So, I downloaded the app.  Watched the video tutorial.  And was off to the races.

INSTANT "GUT REACTION"/VERDICT -- I LIKE IT (a lot more than I thought I would).  And, Vine definitely has the potential to be a big winner, especially with Twitter behind it (at the risk of stating the obvious).  It is a winner for the U/X as well.  Not sure this is the holy grail of mobile video (that is, THE Instagram for video), but it certainly is the Twitter for Video.  And, that alone is big news.

HITS

-- it is easy -- easy -- easy
-- makes brilliant HD videos
-- the auto editing feature works brilliantly
-- easy captioning -- critical for finding relevant videos
-- easy commenting -- highly social
-- video brevity could foster creativity -- jury is out
-- I can see how Vine could be addictive

MISSES

-- you can't record yourself when you hold your phone (i.e., you can't reverse the iPhone camera while you record) -- must touch the screen to record video with camera looking only forward
-- in fact, I couldn't find a way to share my Vine video with one-click -- if there is one, it certainly ain't intuitive
-- in fact, I tried searching my own name in Vine to see if I could share it that way, and my Vine profile didn't even show up when I typed in my first and last name (strange)
-- the mandatory "6 second rule" is limiting, even if it fosters creativity

On the last point -- which is perhaps THE critical U/X issue for Vine's success -- yes, I understand the "brevity is the soul of wit" rationale.  After all, Vine comes to you from the good folks of Twitter.  But, while Twitter has its maximum 140 character limit, there is no minimum.  There is here with Vine.

Being in the video business, I know another real-world justification for the 6-second rule (at least in terms of the maximum).  Video is an entirely different animal than still photos in terms of file size/data at play for two fundamental reasons: (1) streaming costs are involved; and (2) much more significantly, storage of all that video data (compared to stills) is expensive and fundamentally alters business models.  I wrote about these real-world considerations in a second TechCrunch piece.

Brevity, in video, is the soul of monetization wit (or at least the possibility of ever having a video sharing service justify itself with a real-world business model).

As indicated above, Vine is a great video Twitter.  But is it more?  Well, in my TechCrunch piece from this weekend, I identify two fundamental hurdles to mass adoption of a mobile video service: (1) navigation -- i.e., finding videos that "matter" to you; and (2) video "engagement" -- i.e., videos that are worthy of your limited time and attention span (via "communities of interest").  So, how does Vine faire in those two respects?

Vine solves the first problem by enabling the user to title their Vine video, so that the viewer can judge its relevance to them by more than a mere thumbnail.  In other words, Vine passes the first test.

But, how about test #2 -- engagement?  Here, the jury is obviously still out, because it all depends on how Vine is used.  Certainly, Vine videos conceptually can be organized around topics of mass interest - including the "communities of interest" I discuss in my TechCrunch piece (music, meaning, and moments).  It is simply too early to tell if that will be the case (but it is logical that it will be).  And, if this happens, then the folks at Twitter really got something here.

I DO believe that Vine is missing an obvious "mass appeal" use case right now, however -- and that is the video "soapbox" use case where someone with a personal following (e.g., lots of Twitter followers) could use Vine to spout off on any given topic for 6 seconds (and that person's Twitter followers would care).  As I understand things, this is simply essentially impossible now because the Vine user, as noted above, canNOT record themselves with the backward facing camera.

I would like that use case.  And, I know there are many others out there like me.

And, that means opportunity ....

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