By Jaime Kaiser

Vine, an iOS and Android application released by Twitter towards the end of January, has the visual appeal of a YouTube video combined with the concision of a tweet. You can only capture a Vine video on a mobile application. And being able to snap a compelling six-second clip that can be immediately uploaded to Twitter or Facebook has attracted citizen journalists around the world wishing to produce online content that is both digestible and visual.

Some signature features include:

  • An intuitive user interface
  • Looping videos
  • Pause and reposition (for live editing and stop-motion animation)
  • Embed directly into Facebook and Twitter
  • Foursquare integration

Vine was originally released in the IOS devices only, while an Android version was released earlier this month. Android devices have one feature that iPhones and iPads do notzooming while shooting, a useful tool when attempting to film among a crowd of demonstrators. However, the consensus among tech bloggers is that the iOS app is more efficient and contains more features. Its search bar, for example, permits searching by hashtag. The Android version has no such function, though it does have a semi-frequently updated menu (also featured on iOS) of featured editors picks, popular videos, and trending topics.

Android Vine: Besides the zoom feature, the Android software is a few paces behind the iOS version
Android Vine: Besides the zoom feature, the Android software is a few paces behind the iOS version
iOS Vine: Complete with search bar and front-facing camera as well as Facebook direct upload access.
iOS Vine: Complete with search bar and front-facing camera as well as Facebook direct upload access.

Other features Android owners are missing out on: Shooting with a front-facing camera and uploading directly to Facebook. This limits Android Viner’s audience and also inhibits Viners from creating a personal narrative. This feature should really be included in later updates of the app as many Android models do possess a front-facing camera.

As empowering as this new short-form video advocacy is, despite software setbacks, the Vine concept is not without its faults. There’s something inherently challenging about capturing something meaningful, much less creating a narrative.

Shooting Time: The short length of each video poses a challenge that, when overcome, yields a brief but powerful statement. That being said, it can be difficult to utter a complete sentence in six seconds, much less tell a story. When Vine isn’t used efficiently, it produces a collection of seemingly random clips. In the video here, too many different clips are stuffed into one video using the touch-screen pause feature, resulting in a fragmented array of shots, each too fleeting for the viewer to register.

Description Fields for Context: Equally as detrimental as video length is the lack of context among the thousands of Vines scattered about the Internet. Stating the time, date, and location in the video wastes precious seconds, making the location entry field that much more important. This particular user documented a stream of protesters passing his residence, but the video could be improved by giving some indication of the area of Istanbul being filmed.

User Base & Online Presence: Vine videos, unless uploaded to an external social networking site, remain trapped inside the mobile device they were created in, confining outreach to Vine users (and, therefore, smartphone owners). If Vines are never shared on Facebook or Twitter, and are not uploaded to a secondary Vine site such as it’s possible they will remain trapped inside a smartphone, never even reaching the broader web.

Vine is exciting because it seems to encompass the best aspects of many popular social tools like Instagram, Twitter, and various video-sharing sites. Vine enthusiasts will claim that the beauty of the app is in its brevity and simplicity but certain features, or the lack of them, can feel limiting. Rather than getting trapped by the brutal simplicity of its interface, it’s important to remember that plenty of quality advocacy-related content has been and will continue to be produced on this new platform.

Check back later this week to learn more about ways Vines have be used to advocate for human rights and promote social causes.

Jaime is an intern with WITNESS’ Social Media Team.

20 thoughts on “The Vine Mobile App: The Social Media Fanatic’s Favorite New Tool

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