A couple of days ago, Twitter unveiled the Vine app, its first venture outside of the core product. It seemed like yet another “me too” effort from Twitter, which recently added photo filters to its mobile apps, a late one at that. Video sharing apps in the vein of Instagram were a big fad last year, but it's clear they're not going anywhere.
The only one that seems to have some staying power is Snapchat, even after Facebook copied it outright and put out Poke. At first glance, Vine couldn't have come at a worse time.
Not only that; shortly after launch, the discussion turned to Facebook blocking the find friends feature in the app.
Facebook tried to justify it with policies about replicating features or not "giving back," but Vine doesn't replicate anything Facebook currently does and Facebook sharing is on equal footing with Twitter in the app.
The truth is, Facebook will try to kill anything coming out of Twitter like it does with Google or with anyone it perceives as a competitor.
Only after all of this quieted down, people finally got a chance to put Vine through its paces and, despite skepticism from pretty much everyone, Vine may actually be onto something.
Its flagship feature is the six-second video limit. It seems like a gimmick, it is a gimmick if you think of it as a video sharing app.
But Vine is not about videos, it's about easier-to-create GIFs. Vine videos are restricted to six seconds, they play automatically in the stream or on the web and they loop endlessly back to back. They're a lot more like a GIF than a YouTube video.
GIF images have been hugely popular in recent years, despite GIF being an obsolete image format in an age where there are much better options for both images and animations.
The reason GIFs became so popular is because they're relatively easy to make, they work everywhere, and they start automatically and loop end to end.
There's another big reason too; GIFs filed a gap between still images and video, they're both and neither. It may seem like hyperbole, but GIFs, or rather any type of short, repeating video, are a new art form with a lot potential.
Yet, the GIF was never designed for what it's being used now. Which is why something like Vine, which replicates many of the key features, could be hugely popular. Granted, Vine has a long way to go – videos can't even be embedded independently yet.
But if Twitter doubles down on it as it should, brings Vine to new platforms, makes it incredibly easy to share these short videos everywhere, Vine could be huge.
Those are big “ifs” and there's no guarantee that Vine is going to make it. If not Vine, it's going to be somebody else, but the format will be big.