Vine, at one time, had 100 million people watching videos every month and 1.5 billion daily video loops. The constraint of the six-second video format fostered a new type of creativity for comedians, actors and artists, which gave rise to Vine stars – internet celebrities who could make a decent living from the platform.
Actor Brittany Furlan’s funny six-second videos helped her build up an audience of almost 10 million followers amassing 4.3 billion looped views, making her one of the top three Vine stars of all time.
She credits Vine for turning her career around.
“I was a struggling actor and I wasn’t getting any work, so I had all this pent up creative energy,” she said. “I loved how simple it was to create and edit things, then boom, it was out there. I got addicted to it.”
“Once I hit 150,000 followers I got calls from the top five talent agencies in LA. Then brands started reaching out. Now I’ve been doing movies, TV and writing. It turned into a whole career, an actual job.”
Thomas Sanders, who has 8.2 million followers and more than 7.2 billion loops, has a similar story. “I fell into it and I thought that six-second videos seemed very simplistic, but what people did in those six seconds was fascinating. Like a digital three-panel comic,” he said.
Sanders’ dream was to be on the stage – in musicals, Broadway and theater – and Vine provided a “beautiful platform” to showcase his skills, performing different characters and comedy skits in bite-size digital chunks.
“I didn’t think anybody would take to me, but Vine showed me how much I could make somebody smile and that you can spread positive messages and be funny without being offensive.”
His success on Vine eventually translated into funding and resources for Ultimate Storytime, a musical written by and starring Sanders that’s been touring the US east coast.
Comedian and actor Yung Poppy amassed 2.9 million followers and 3 billion loops. He describes Vine and other social media platforms as like “building a résumé” for the big screen. He said he knew he was onto something when Kylie Jenner started following him and brands were offering thousands of dollars for him to promote their products.
He also wrote a song called “If you want a burger” that was downloaded as a ringtone 30,000 times in the first day. “I’ve met a lot of famous people, I’ve been in a movie and I’ve made a lot of money,” he said.
The Vine stars had no prior warning about the closure of the service; they all woke up to Twitter’s announcement, posted on Medium, this morning. It wasn’t completely unexpected – activity on the app had been dwindling, and Twitter was facing intense pressure to turn its business around.
“It was so sad to hear but I can’t say I’m shocked. Over the last few years it’s kind of just dissipated,” Furlan said.
“I’m surprised it happened this quickly, but it was an inevitability. Twitter has spread itself quite thin,” said Taylor Nikolai, a self-described social media influencer, consultant and creator of the @FunnyVines Twitter account, which helped popularize Vines among a more mainstream audience.
Most of these Viners have also built up large followings on other social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, so the loss of Vine won’t be a big blow to their key commodity – the size of their audience.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. But it’s also thrilling in a way that I think will push me to take my talent and brand off into other platforms,” said Sanders, who also has a popular YouTube channel.
A key place where Vine stars can continue to express themselves is Instagram. “They give you more time. You can be funny for a whole minute rather than six seconds,” Poppy said.
That doesn’t mean they can’t feel nostalgia for the four-year-old app, with many praising the staff and community of Vine.
“It’s not about the numbers or the money, it’s all the people. They looked out for me,” said Kenny Knox, who has 1.5 million followers and 970 million loops. “I met some of my best friends through the app.”
“It was like getting paid to play,” Furlan added. “It was such a pure, wonderful thing.”
This article was written by Olivia Solon in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Friday 28th October 2016 12.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010