Twitter has rolled out Vine, a free app for iOS devices that allows users to shoot and post short videos.
Twitter’s strategic focus on brevity—the company has long resisted calls to lengthen Tweets beyond the current 140-character limit—extends to Vine videos, which can only be six seconds in length. “Posts on Vine are about abbreviation—the shortened form of something larger,” Dom Hoffman, Vine’s co-founder and general manager, wrote in a blog posting. “They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life.”
Twitter purchased Vine, then a three-person startup, in October 2012. At the time, AllThingsD suggested buying price could have topped $30 million; Vine’s founding triptych became Twitter employees.
It’s easy to see the Vine acquisition as part of Twitter’s larger push into multimedia. The company launched a muscled-up photo service Dec. 10, complete with Instagram-style filters and editing tools. “In June, 2011, we introduced the ability to attach a photo to your Tweet, a first step toward improving the entire photo experience on Twitter,” read a posting on Twitter’s official blog at the time. “Since then we’ve been making it easier and faster to share and discover and enjoy great photos on Twitter every day.”
That photo launch came on the heels of an escalating battle with Instagram, the Facebook subsidiary, which decided to disable photo integration with Twitter. “While tweeting links to Instagram photos is still possible, you can no longer view the photos on Twitter, as was previously the case,” read Twitter’s Dec. 5 note on its Status page. Instagram’s move came just as it launched a Web-based platform with user profiles, a significant brand expansion beyond mobile devices.
That same month, Yahoo also decided to jump into the fray with a new Flickr app for iPhone, complete with special filters and the ability to post images to various social networks.
Photo and video apps make Twitter a more robust player in what’s clearly shaping up to be a battle with Facebook and other social networks. Billions of dollars in adverting revenue are potentially at stake, adding some very real-world significance to what, on the surface, just seems like a lot of corny photos and video clips.