RIP Vine: The Rise and Fall of the $30 Million App

It’s crazy what can happen in six seconds.

It’s even crazier what can happen in four years.

Last month, word broke that the popular video-sharing app Vine would be shuttered by its parent company, Twitter — a dramatic twist for the app that in 2013 turned the six-second looping video into a social media staple.

Vine was once the fastest-growing app in the world, an overnight success story that revealed the vast creativity of the Internet. Almost the moment it hit the market, Vine became the most downloaded video-sharing app in the world.

Armed with more than 200 million active users and the financial backing of Twitter, which purchased the app for $30 million just five months after it was founded, Vine’s future seemed assured. But like one of the millions of videos that made the app famous, its success turned out to be fleeting.

Despite modest efforts like Vine Kids, a separate app targeting children, Vine was never able to evolve. While competitors like Snapchat and Instagram gained steam through constant innovation, Vine was unable or unwilling to add a single game-changing feature to its platform. Active user rates plummeted, and according to Marketly, more than half of Vine’s top users completely ditched the platform before the calendar flipped to 2016.

Vine was already on life support when Facebook delivered the coup de grâce earlier this year; a vicious one-two punch that left the app reeling. First, Facebook released Live, its live streaming video API. Then just a few months later it introduced Instagram Stories, another video feature.

Twitter had no choice but to pull the plug.

As stakeholders gather around the table to post-mortem Vine’s demise, they’ll almost certainly conclude that complacency killed the app. Vine was trendy when it launched, smartly exploiting the shrinking attention span of Internet users, but in four years, it could never rediscover the instincts that sparked its rise.

Vine’s idleness demonstrated not only a lack of vision, but also a degree of stubbornness. While six-second videos were all the rage in 2012, they are (surprise!) very limiting. Brands found that it was much easier to tell stories on apps like Snapchat than on Vine.

But most emblematic of Vine’s do-nothing mentality was a meeting that reportedly occurred last fall, when 18 of Vine’s top 50 content creators marched into Vine’s office with a plan to save the app.

For $1.2 million ($21.6 million total), as well as Vine’s pledge to fix bugs and roll out several product changes, each influencer would produce 12 videos a month. It would have been a significant investment, but it would have kept Vine relevant.

The influencers referenced YouTube and Facebook, which have been paying influencers for years. But Vine, risk averse as always, refused to play ball. It clearly didn’t have the appetite to compete with the big dogs.

Now, like one of its videos, Vine’s short life is over — an abrupt ending that leaves you wanting more. An all-too-familiar feeling.