Today Is the Last Day to Download Your Vines
Vine, the only good app, officially shuts down today. At some point, the app will turn into the “Vine Camera,” which will allow users to make the traditional six-second looping videos for personal use, or for Twitter. The central hub, however, will be gone—no longer will you be able to solely follow your friend’s Vines, or come across whatever accidental viral craze is currently dominating hearts and minds. (The Vines will continue to live on via the Vine website, but as a discovery vehicle it’s more or less worthless.)
As of right now, you can still download your old Vines before they’re permanently fixed in the cloud. (You can do so by going to your profile in the Vine app, and clicking the “save videos” button under your profile photo—make sure the app is updated.) I’ve downloaded at least three copies—two to my computer, one to my phone—out of abject fear of accidentally losing them forever. There was a lot to risk: Before Snapchat and Instagram became the app of choice for sharing segments of your social life with other people, Vine was an impulsive way to grab the little moments—livelier than a photo, less tiresome than a video. In these charming little loops came humor, drama, stupidity, the attendant emotions of the event drawn out with each unending repetition.
My friends and I used it constantly, taking stock pleasure in affecting some directorial authorship in our videos. (Doing so wasn’t time consuming as a proper video, which is more intrusive to shoot on a whim.) For a good Vine, the camera couldn’t sit on any one image for more than a few seconds, unless its focal point was in action. Talking was good; dancing was better. The world was converted into entertainment, a heightened memento of the day-to-day. These clips weren’t always honest—as with photos, they involved an amount of play-acting for the camera—but it was easier to capture someone being real or cutesy or funny in just a a few seconds, instead of asking them to stretch out the moment.
Vine was never better than when capturing these bits of performance from people who otherwise wouldn’t be on camera, or when enabling amateur creatives to indulge a dumb idea. It sucked the most when professionally aspiring actors and personalities—think doofy hot teen Nash Grier—used it as a platform for their thin comedic instincts, which were masked by the shortness of the clip. Vine’s fate was essentially sealed when a group of those personalities got together, and demanded a bunch of money to keep producing their crummy videos. Thankfully, the people in charge said no.
Maybe it was because they didn’t have the money, and saw the future shutdown approaching from the distance. But it would be better to let a great thing die than to keep it propped up by a stream of endless bullshit. In the weeks since the app’s closure was announced, I’ve seen hundreds of Vines re-shared across the internet. None of them were taken by people who were trying to make a career of this fun app. What better summation of its ethos than the greatest Vine of all-time being completely random?
The people who control the apps want to get more into our lives, to varying success. Facebook is doing stuff with Facebook Live, until it isn’t; Snapchat wants to show us the news, even though it doesn’t work; Twitter is now unsellable because it’s become a echo chamber for racists and the president-elect. The people in charge really don’t know what they’re doing, it seems—they just have the money, and the power, and you can’t underestimate how crappy things will get when those advantages are deployed at will.
Vine, for all its charms, was a casualty of economics and waning user devotion. But it’s better to see the app end than to bastardize it further into taking up our time, regardless of how it might actually fit into our lives. It stayed great until the end, fulfilling the function it was created for. Like the looping six seconds, it did just enough, and didn’t overstay its welcome. May all the Vine stars be met with mediocre career returns; may the great Vines made by you and me and the people we know live forever.