Vine Brings Its Grassroots Nano-Theater Portal Online

If Twitter arguably has a reputation and cultural impact that outdistances its actual reach, then its quirky video offshoot Vine enjoys an even more outsized image. We haven’t seen an official update since the 40 million MAUs the six-second mobile video net claimed in August last year. But the network sharea with parent Twitter a certain niche appeal that we think probably keeps its reach quite modest.

But like the hashtag, a term many more people know than use, the stop-motion and jagged slices of life that characterize the Vine aesthetic are familiar to many more than actively use the app. Vine is hoping to increase its reach by coming more aggressively onto the Web. Until now you could share Vine videos and embed them on the Web, and the site allowed for perusing individual profiles. In recent days, however, the site has expanded functionality so that now most of the same video portal curation and discover tools from the app can be found online.

The most prominent addition is the Explore page with the dozen content categories like Tech, Animals, Comedy, News, Places, etc. There are also lists of popular and trending Vines. It is pretty much the app now on the Web. The app does still have its original TV Mode, which enlarges the video and auto-plays you through the category or hashtag you have chosen.

The move by Vine positions it to become a more active part of the online social ecosystem, making it easier to redistribute the content and push people to the fun creativity that is going on here, mainly by everyday users.

Vine remains one of the purest havens of user-generated and grassroots genius left in the social sphere. I continue to be impressed by the energy and wit coming from everyday users on this channel. I imagine the creative constraints and unofficial expectations of Vine tend to attract uploaders with some real wit and imagination. Of course anyone can post any six seconds here, but the best comic and stop-motion content sets a high bar for creativity.

There is a fascinating aesthetic to Vine. Superficially, it is the brevity that forces all comers to locate the essence of their message and compress it more than they ever thought they could. Of course this is also what makes the channel so much easier to take than other user-gen venues like YouTube and even Facebook, where the makers can take as long as they want to be as boring, amateurish and tedious as, well, the amateurish, boring and tedious among us can be. Vine not only requires more self-conscious editing on the front end, but on the consumption side the browser never has to endure more than a few seconds of tedium before moving on.

One of my favorite Vine channels is DIY, which is where the longstanding tradition of grassroots craft and personal expression meet the new technologies of six-second video. Watching people show off or demonstrate the making of their little conveniences, design ideas and craft projects in six-second Vines layers one centuries-old folk art legacy with a new kind of popular technology for self-broadcasting. This is the channel where you will see Home Depot deliver an animation promoting gardening or Lowe’s do one of its signature six-second handyman tips. They are great. But the real fun comes from the everyday user. Like the girl who instructs ho to make a glow jar out of glowsticks or the fellow who solves the age-old bottom-of-the-peanut-butter-jar problem by creating a container with top and bottom lids.

If there is an aesthetic to Vine’s comedy it lies in the gesture, the quick exchanges, the double-take and the glance. In many ways it is an animated version of the one-panel comic strip. At its best it forces creators and viewers to focus on the meaning, comedy, commonness in the smallest bits of human business. It is a microscope on moments that still seems to be owned and fueled by just plain wildly creative folks.  

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