Twitter, in Shutting Down Withering Vine, Contemplates Its Own Future



“Twitter Can’t Control Rapid Growth of Vine” read the Wired headline in June 2013. “Vine Withers as New Instagram Video Shares Take Lead on Twitter” read the Mashable headline just nine days after that. And now, just three years later, comes news that Twitter is shutting down Vine. Such is the life-cycle of a technology brand. Or is this there more to the move? Is Twitter dead?

First, while there will be no new Vines, old ones won’t disappear. “Nothing is happening to the apps, website or your Vines today,” Twitter announced. It added that it would keep the Vine website up. But as far as the brand is concerned, it will no longer support or promote the service.

In a post on Medium, Team Vine thanked its users profusely, saying it was “going to do this the right way.” It added: “We’ll be keeping the website online because we think it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made. You will be notified before we make any changes to the app or website.”

The announcement came with speculation that Twitter is also in trouble; “Vine’s dead. Is Twitter next?” asked CNN. But Twitter closing down Vine is just another signal that the once powerful social media service is lost in the wilderness. Then again, maybe Twitter has always been lost in the wilderness.

Shuttering a service is not a death knell by any stretch. Successful brands close down underperforming business parts all the time. Yahoo has did it with Xobni. McDonald’s ditched the McWrap. There is a whole Wikipedia page of services Google has shuttered, from Google Answers to Picasa to, of course, Google Reader. (Why Google Reader—WHY?!)

The likely reason that Vine was killed was that half of its users had stopped using it or deleted their accounts. And the likely reason a lot of the most popular users left was because there was never an effective way to monetize those six-second videos.

Monetization has been Twitter bugaboo from the word go. While other social media services have found paths to advertising on their video services, Twitter has languished. In June 2013, 10 days after Instagram launched Instagram Video, the then popular Vine lost a huge portion of its link shares and attention. Three months later, Twitter said: “We do not currently place, or currently plan to place, ads on Vine.” At the same time, Facebook’s Instagram Video service announced its advertising strategy. (You can see all about Instagram Video’s current ad program here.)

Twitter announced the death of Vine today but the death of Vine was determined in 2013 when Twitter decided against giving it ad support. Without ad support, or a way to monetize their work, Vine’s top users fled to more profitable platforms like YouTube and Instagram.

Advertisers did finally turn to Vine. The “Vinekings” Vine Program by the NFL Minnesota Vikings is a bright spot. And some Vine stars found ways to make money through product placement for brands like Jimmy Johns. Dunkin’ Donuts and Target found a voice on Vine. But as half of Vine users had already fled, brands turned to chasing larger audiences on YouTube, Instagram and Snap.

With Vine gone and the brand conceding a loss in the social video market, Twitter is free to turn its attention to growth areas, like Apple TV. Twitter’s Apple TV deal will bring the social media’s content to Apple’s viewing platform. It will include feeds and live event reactions. One of those live events is the NFL. Twitter is about halfway through an experimental season streaming live Thursday night NFL games. Twitter’s NFL broadcasts have attracted about 3 million unique views, suggesting there may be some growth potential for Twitter in live video streams to the cord-cutter generation.

Also, despite laying off 9% of its workforce, Twitter posted better than expected growth in monthly active users, surpassing forecasts by nearly 2 million to 317 million. Many still speculate that Twitter’s next best move would be to sell itself.