Video not yet ripe on Twitter's Vine

Limited traction of Twitter's 6-second video app reveals that video-sharing as a genre is lagging years behind photo-sharing.

CNET
Athletes do it. Celebrities do it. Brands do it. Even fashionistas find it trendy. Yet Vine, the 2-month-old "it" video-clip service from Twitter, isn't as popular you might expect. Nor is the entire video-sharing genre, which looks totally unhip when compared against our generation's photo-sharing ways.

Vine, a 6-second looping video application for iOS, launched on January 24. The app is celebrated for its panache, and allows users to patch together teeny-tiny clips to make artsy or inane mini movies.

The unconventional video format has proved popular with everyone from citizen journalists to job-seekers, famous or otherwise. But two months in, Vine doesn't appear to be emulating the trajectory of Instagram, which now stands at more than 100 million monthly active users. Instagram, the poster child of instant fame and fortune in social media land, is the yardstick by which all video apps that assert to apply its simplicity to a longer form are measured.

There is no official headcount on Vine users, and Twitter declined to share any data on its nascent video app.

RJMetrics, a data-crunching company, recently conducted a study on the popularity of video apps, as measured by links on Twitter. In just a month, Vine grew past Viddy and Socialcam to become the most popular video-sharing service on Twitter -- but it's still not quite ripe yet. The service is only used by a small minority of the most highly active Twitter users, RJMetrics concluded.

For its study, RJMetrics studied 2.3 million tweets from randomly selected "highly active" users, defined as people who tweeted at least 100 times between January 1 and February 24, 2013. Twitter has more than 200 million active users.

Less than 3 percent of highly active Twitter users have ever used Vine, according to RJMetrics' calculations. RJMetrics
Roughly 4 percent of highly active Twitter users shared a video through Vine or a top competitor between January 24 and February 24, 2013, according to RJMetrics. Vine was used by 2.8 percent of highly active users, while Viddy and Socialcam were used by 0.5 percent and 0.2 percent of the same population, respectively. Put another way, less than 3 percent of highly active Twitter users have ever used Vine.

During the one-month period, 98 percent of the same group shared at least one photo through a leading photo-sharing service. The 98 percent to 4 percent ratio between photo-sharing and video-sharing behavior is a startling finding that shows just how far video is lagging behind.

It's unrealistic for video sharing to match photo sharing, Robert Moore, RJMetrics CEO and co-founder, told CNET. And if there is to be a time when video sharing is as popular as photo sharing, that time is certainly not now.

In 2012, Viddy and Socialcam pushed the we're-Instagram-for-video message hard and it seemed that both would be breakout hits. They were. And then Facebook, a major driver of traffic and users to the Open Graph-connected apps, changed its algorithm to de-emphasize app activity.

Viddy, which at one point had almost 21 million monthly active users connected to Facebook, is down to 530,000 monthly actives, according to third-party tracking service AppData. Socialcam, now owned by AutoDesk, peaked at more than 83 million monthly active users connected to Facebook in June 2012, but today counts just 3.8 million monthly actives, by AppData's count.

Photos represent the vast majority of links shared on Twitter. Videos barely register. RJMetrics
Now both are being outshined by Vine, which doesn't even compete with the smallest of players in the image-sharing ecosystem, by RJMetrics' measurements.

"At some point, video sharing will become as pervasive as photo sharing," Brian Solis, Altimeter principal analyst, told CNET. "The challenge is behavior."

Instagram made it easy to give life to an image, and helped people avoid having their photos get lost in a virtual shoebox, he said. Video is in a trickier position, particularly because, despite app makers' best efforts to help people share tweaked clips, no app has figured out the formula for making these short videos interesting to watch.

"Most of the Vine's I've seen are quite painful to watch," Solis said.

There may be something else far more powerful at play in preventing video-sharing from taking off: ego. Moore theorizes that sharing video clips is less appealing than sharing photos because videos don't allow for the same type of distortion.

A photo, for instance, can manipulated in a such way to make it seem like you and your friends are having a fantastic time at a hip locale. The reality may not match the image, but you can project whatever image you desire. With video, your ability to the project the image you want is shot down by context, Moore said.

Still, both Moore and Solis believe that Vine can ripen into the most successful video-sharing service yet.

"With Vine, you do have a recipe for widespread adoption," Solis said. He cautioned, however, that we're still three to five years out from the day when sharing video clips is as widespread an activity as posting pics. That spells trouble or opportunity for video app developers looking to imitate Instagram's success.

 

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