Jan. 17, 2017, is the date after the dash on Vine’s tombstone. From Jan. 24, 2013, to Jan. 17, 2017, Vine served as a social networking app available for iOS and Android that allowed users to record and share videos of no longer than six seconds. It was a seemingly clunky idea that, in hindsight, follows Twitter’s model of a character limit.
Truncating users’ allotted time chiseled content to the bare bones of what was funny. The cultural results of this format are fascinating. From the beginning of viral videos, shared experience was paramount. The 2007 internet phenomenon “Charlie bit my finger” may have been funny, but it was a lot funnier on an email chain with 467 of your closest friends.
In the following seven years as other social networks struggled to smoothly integrate video, video services, and social components into their products, Vine found its niche. Vine took shared experiences paired with viral videos, and gave eager young creators a platform with a gimmick that forced the quickest punch lines we had ever seen.
The app was most often used for regular social network content such as concerts, brunches and dinner dates, but the gold mine of Vine and its enduring legacy comes from the clips of people being caught dancing in their cars, pranks gone awry, and only the best six seconds of an already funny 90-second YouTube clip. The Vine compilations that survive on the annals of YouTube are the footprints of Vine on the servers. The late social network’s stamp on culture is a snapshot of its user base and their generation.