RIP Vine, the Platform That Made 6 Seconds Feel Like a Lifetime

Vine is dead. On Wednesday, the site’s founders posted an announcement on Medium noting that its mobile app would be discontinued “in the coming months.” (The announcement also noted that Vine’s website would be kept online, and that users would “be able to access and download [their] Vines,” so don’t worry:Damn Daniel isn’t going anywhere.)

If this article were a Vine, of course, it would simply repeat that opening paragraph over and over again, allowing the clockwork repetition and glaring mundanityto take on a semi-hypnotic rhythm. That was the pleasure(and the limitation)of the platform, which launched in 2012, and was built upon one of those new-media premises that sounded really, really dumb …. until its users turned it into something really, really brilliant. To create a Vine, all you had to do was film and edit a brief video on your phoneearly Vines were limited to a mere six secondsand then upload it via the Vine app. From there, your Vine could be looped over and over again, a six-second comedy or drama on repeat for as long as the viewer could stand it.

To skeptics who sweated our ever-eradicating attention spansand to creators who were accustomed to telling stories over the course of minutes and hours, not mere secondsVine must initially have seemed like a low-brow Beelzebub, a goofy lark for people who wanted instant, swiftly forgettable gratification. But what users and viewers soon discovered was that, by isolating and repeating small moments, Vines could be kind of brilliant: They could amplify a joke, heighten a weird moment’s dream-like goofiness, and make the banal seem beautifulsometimes all at once. Consider this 2014 Vine of Alec Baldwin nonchalantly catching a stray tennis ball at the U.S. Open:

I’ve watched this clip hundreds of times, sometimes for minutes on end, and it has never bored me: The slow-mo bounce of the ball, the graceful lunge out of the stands, the kingly expression on Baldwin’s face as he holds up his prize for the crowdthey’re all wonderful, but if this was merely a pre-end-credits blip on Sports Center, you’d watch it once or twice and think, “Oh, cool! Alec Baldwin caught a tennis ball!” Yet when it’s played in a loop,the clip takes on a strange, almost fantastical rhythm. A good Vine could unearth the oddness of an outlying moment, forcing you to re-examine it again and again in a way that could either surprise you with its small revelations, or calm you with its familiar twists and turns.

But Vine was also an excellent platform for comedy,especially the sort of dumb-fun one-liners, sight-gags, and fails that only get better as they keep goinglike the phenomenal “Why You Lyin,”which actually led to a legitclub resurgence forNext’s 90s R&B hit “Too Close.”My all-time favorite Vine (and maybe yours, too, since it has more than 8 million loops) is this one, in which a snow-shovel scrape is turned into part of the opening riff for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”:

Again, I could watch this all afternoon without getting impatient. By taking an already slight observationnamely, “Isn’t it weird how this sounds like this?”and shrinking it down to just a few seconds, everything about the joke somehow becomes bigger. With each loop, that on-the-ice wipe-out grows all the more tragic and hilarious, while the musical connection between that stray shovel and that infamous Nirvana becomes all the more ingenious. The funniest Vineswhether they were electrolemon’s playful pop-culture fever-dreams, Vic Berger’s election zoom-ins or Will Sasso’s ridiculous lemon-barfswere the ones that managed a canny metabolic feat: They sped up your visual appetite, giving you just a few snippets of visual information, while also rewarding you for slowing down and re-watching and re-discovering the joke all over again.

Over the years, as Vine’s audience grew, the site gave way to a new breed of celebrity: The Vine Stars, a crowded cosmos of performers who were often very young and very prolific, and whose ability to land semi-mystifying endorsement deals often earned them the scorn of people over 40 (many of whom muttered the phrase “Vine Star” with the same incredulous aggravation that ’80s suburban dads employed to complain about “that rappity music”). But even though the world of Vine-celebs was overcrowdedand even though some of their “hits” were little more than, “Tyler threw Jojo’s sneaks into the poooool!”they could generate great bits of micro-comedy, like this clip by Sara Hopkins, in which she raps along to Dorrough‘s “Ice Cream Paint Job”:

It’s kind of a perfect Vine: A simple, cleanly executed comic idea? Check. A goofy, almost casually D.I.Y. visual approach? Check. A literal last-second twist that makes you want to loop it over and over again? Check. Vine may have lacked the immediacy of Twitter or theaesthetically enhanced storytelling abilities of Instagram, but it was, in many ways, a deeply experimental site, one that encouraged users to play around as much as they could, all the while working within a strict set of creative parameters. Not all of their results worked, obviously. But the ones that did will live on way beyond their six seconds of fame.

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