During an evening out in 2013 with my Wired coworkers, reporter Christina Bonnington and I learned that we would not be part of an upcoming podcast. Slightly irritated, we decided to start our own tech-news roundup that would allow only redheads. We decided on the name Gingercast, fired up Vine, and started what would become one of my favorite memories of covering technology.
Vine's six-second looping videos made us distill the day's tech news down to a single, shouted story. We had to be quick, or at least clever, to convey what was happening in the world. It didn't help that we started each episode with "This is the Gingercast" and ended with "That was the Gingercast."
Without the simplicity of Vine, we would have never made it to 294 episodes. We could meet, figure out what we wanted to talk about, conceive an idea, and shoot and publish in about five minutes. It was the perfect vehicle for two tech journalists to simultaneously report the news, and comment on how ridiculous the industry is. Plus, Vine's single feature and lack of distracting filters kept us from straying too far from our goal of a quickie redhead-only daily video podcast.
But more important, Vine made it fun and easy to share with our friends. So the news that Twitter is killing the service is disappointing, to say the least. While the chances of the Gingercast returning without Vine are slim, at least we'll always have this glorious moment about Facebook buying Oculus:
Vine's limitations forced users to be more creative. Musicians, for instance, would condense or speed up their riffs to create the perfect six-second loop. The best ones felt grander or more meaningful when you listened to them more than once; over and over, the melodies would slowly unpack themselves, or grow in scale and batter your eardrums.
I spent a lot of time listening to prolific Viners such as Eric Nakassa, Trench and Andrew Fitzpatrick, better known as 80Fitz. The work they produced was different, distinctive and almost impossible to replicate on conventional music-streaming services. Covers or original material -- it didn't matter. The loops were addictive, and it's sad to think Vine's death will push these users to more conventional platforms.
I didn't initially know what to make of it. Videos in just six seconds? It seemed absurd. In the beginning, I used it only to share clips of my cat or short vignettes of my adventures in San Francisco. Soon, however, I began to see those six seconds as a constraint capable of spurring creativity, much in the same way that the 140-character limit of tweets forces you to be smarter in your choice of words. Quirky, fun videos proliferated, and I enjoyed watching pithy how-to clips, well-crafted stop-motion animation and humorous minisketches. But suddenly, I felt way too much pressure to be clever. Plus, once Vine became more of a place for performance art, I felt less compelled to share.
So when Instagram introduced 15-second videos a few months after Vine's debut, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon. Instagram's version was just about sharing videos of your everyday life, which has always been more my thing. Still, I do appreciate the humor and artistry of Vine, and its celebration of the well-timed joke.
My lasting memory of Vine will be introducing a cousin to it soon after launch, and him quickly becoming internet famous (aka "vamous") as a result. He still kind of is, annoyingly. (Snapchat is the real cash cow these days, apparently.)
I stopped browsing Vine years ago and never posted much myself. There just aren't many six-second snapshots of my life that anyone would be interested in, I guess. What's sadder: I managed to snag vine.co/jamie when the network started offering custom web URLs. I'll never have that level of internet cred again.
When Vine launched, I'd never really put video online -- there was something about the permanence of YouTube that put me off. Vine was a revelation. It was fast and simple to use. Those six-second loops felt ephemeral, just like the tweets that contained them.
I was never a prolific user -- I made maybe 15 Vines in that first year -- but it was nonetheless my go-to place for sharing video online. Then everyone else caught up. Friends and coworkers began turning to Instagram and Snapchat, but more important for me, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and other apps all improved their video capabilities.
It was suddenly easier for me to send a clip directly to a group of friends, or post a video on Twitter. And so I stopped sharing Vines almost entirely. Still, I'm sad that the service is dying. Although I never got into the cult of faux celebrity that surrounded Vine, I loved the creativity it inspired in people. And I love that it birthed this truly arousing clip of failed British Prime Ministerial candidate Ed Miliband:
Vine's impending demise is a little more personal for me given how much I used and contributed to the service. It was my go-to for entertainment when all I wanted, or needed, was to laugh for a few minutes. I loved trawling through the comedy page watching six-second skits from talented people who understood the power of the format. The site felt like a community, quickly developing its own culture, subculture and counterculture all in a manner of months. But then, through a combination of mismanagement and clueless leadership, Vine had its lunch stolen by YouTube and Snapchat.
For me, Vine was a pressure valve for my own subconscious, doing unfunny characters and weird jokes that amused nobody but myself. I was surprised to see I'd shot more than 850 clips over the last four years, although none were ever seen by more than a handful of people. That was fine, because in exchange for my contribution, I was able to enjoy clips made by truly funny people like Lizza, Alphacat, Jason Nash, Darius Benson, Jerry Purpdrank and others. I'm also convinced that if Danny Gonzalez doesn't get hired by SNL at some point in the future, it will be a massive injustice.
As a journalist, I found Vine great for quickly and efficiently getting little explanatory videos when I was in a rush. At several trade shows, when I needed to get something across that was hard to explain, I'd just throw in a Vine, because a (moving) six-second picture was worth a thousand words. While Vine would never have survived purely as a tool for writers on the move, it did save my skin on a number of occasions when producing full-blown video was logistically impossible.
The other great thing that Vine achieved was to democratize sketch comedy in a way that traditional broadcasting often fails to. Tune into most mainstream shows and you'll see a sea of predominantly white, male faces, but Vine showcased enormous diversity. Its stars were people you'd rarely find on TV, and they offered different, funny perspectives on jokes that you wouldn't have found elsewhere. And yeah, it could also be annoying, like when some weird meme grabbed hold of the site and turned it into a low-rent frat house with 4,000 people making the same My Name's Jeff reference.
I've been a fan of Vine since it launched, and it's probably to my shame that I can name more members of Arielle Vandenberg's friend circle than members of the Kardashians. I'll miss watching the adventures of the cutest Japanese White Faced Scoops Owl who ever lived, and Lenny Sherman talking to himself. I'll miss people not being Jeffrey, DubSmashDressUp's amazing dedication to her costumes and whatever the hell this is.
My name is Mat Smith, and for some reason I have 10 million loops on Vine. I haven't used it since March.
Here are some radishes having an orgasm: