Online video has no fixed home, it reaches as far and wide as the mobile phone

TechCrunch doesn’t seem to think so. In an article titled ‘Squeezing video blood from Twitter’s stone’, Josh Constine tells us that ‘Vine is withering. Twitter is stuck’ and that this latest move is an example of ‘Twitter accepting its smaller size amongst social networks’. Other critics have gone a step further. Writing for The Next Web, Abhimanyu Ghoshal highlights how Vine’s specialist six-second format provided a new and bold interpretation of the video artform. Just like Twitter’s 140 character limit before it, this encouraged innovation and development in the way we communicate. No more.

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For me the biggest issue isn’t the evolutionary steps being taken by individual platforms, it’s the misconception that some hallowed social player, somewhere, is going to become THE new home of online video. This is nonsense. Video isn’t a single ‘thing’. It’s moving pictures. It’s – like emojis – a development of the communications process from language, to text, to more visual storytelling. 

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When we produce moving pictures we segment the raw footage down into different versions for different platforms. A video might start off life as a four minute YouTube clip, get chopped down into a one-minute Facebook version complete with annotations, be boiled down into Instagram clips, Tweets, GIFs, stills, and so on. Talk to somebody in Hollywood and they might start at an even higher level of segmentation: a feature film, a trailer, publicity footage, and so on. No one platform is ever going to become the singular home of the moving picture. That cinematic monopoly went out of the window with the invention of the home television.

But beyond this my biggest concern is that there appears to be a growing industry misconception about what video and social technologies actually are, and why we use them. Vine is an interesting tool because it offers something unique, even down to the fragmented way in which it enables you to capture fragmented shots from different angles within the same upload. Snapchat too has its unique appeals – filters and dog faces – all small advancements in the way we communicate with one another visually. But with dark social growing and video technology available to everybody with a smartphone, aside from these little eccentricities why would I not just capture something directly on my iPhone camera and send it directly via WhatsApp?

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Online video technology is moving away from the walled gardens of the competing social media platforms and into the hands of us all, where it is already being used for frictionless sharing. Vine may well have just lost one of the few key USPs that made people pick it up in the first place instead of their native phone camera. When filters, stickers, and annotations catch up on in-built filming technologies, Snapchat may soon also follow suit. It is perhaps a stark reminder of quite how far social media has revolutionised the industry that even a ‘second wave’ player like Vine is struggling to establish itself as a go-to destination. Walled gardens and ‘home ofs’ are just not the way to play the game in 2016.

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