It looks like Vine, the 6-second video social network, is returning in 2019 as Byte. This is pretty big news for anyone in the social media industry, but brands should also pay very close attention.
First, though, for those with short memories, why all the fuss about Vine?
At it’s height, Vine was the most viral of all social networks. Offering users a 6-second video that others could watch on a loop effectively spawned a new format that ‘creators’ – especially upstart comedians – embraced and ran with. Within months of it’s launch in 2012 it was eating into Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s market share of consumer attention. Twitter quickly bought it for $30 million.
Early in 2013 Vine was the most downloaded app on the Apple app store and brands we’re embracing it to reach and engage their audiences. To provide a frame of reference for how important it was becoming for brands – Burberry’s London Fashion Week strategy in 2013 completely evolved around Vine.
So, what went wrong?
Twitter did what social networks often do when they acquire something innovative: they dawdled. While Snapchat and Instagram innovated, Twitter failed to build on Vine’s success. They missed the boat on live video, they ignored the creator community that Vine had originally nurtured, and, critically, they didn’t capitalise on the huge revenue potential of the platform.
Twitter eventually retired Vine in 2016, to howls of disdain from its 40 million users – especially those already monetising their reach via advertising – and much hand-wringing from those who saw it’s lost potential.
Is it really rising from the ashes?
Well, Dom Hoffman, founder of Vine, who claimed to have regretted selling out to Twitter, has just announced that his new short video platform, called Byte, will launch in Spring 2019. The project has been known about for a while, but was apparently shelved in the Spring of 2018, partly due to the unexpected level of interest in the idea.
our new looping video app is called byte. launching spring 2019 pic.twitter.com/C3FMvkcIwc
— dom hofmann (@dhof) November 8, 2018
Why should brands care about Byte?
It’s hard to say whether Byte will gain traction. The world has moved on since Vine caught the large social networks off balance with its focus on short video. All of the main players offer Vine-like functionality and with features like Stories, newer formats have emerged.
But there’s something about the simplicity and ease-of-use about a social platform that just offers one core feature that seems to appeal to users. It’s the reason Instagram (photo-sharing) and Snapchat (fun messaging) captured their core markets – and there may still be space for a short video network.
Tellingly, if you sign up for updates on the Byte website as a Creator, it asks if you had a Vine account previously (and for your username). If they can ‘put the band back together’ with their most active and engaged creators – they might just recreate the magic of Vine.
This could be big news for brands. With the massive levels of spend and increasing sophistication of the influencer marketing industry that has built up around Instagram in recent years, Byte could step straight into both a market and business model that is ready-made for it. Creators, CMOs and investors alike will be watching this space with interest.