Vine breaks six second limit as video war heats up

Vine ()

What is the average length of an online video?

The answer to that question is extremely difficult to determine, not least because there is no one universally accepted definition of what an online video actually is. Is a GIF a video? And if so just how many clips out there are just two seconds in length? Conversely, if I watch Breaking Bad on Netflix is that an online video? Because if it is then that’s going to skew your average with just 62 full episodes at approximately 48 minutes each in length. And with live streaming apps such as Perisocpe coming into the mix, not to mention more traditional online video communication technologies like Skype and Google Hangouts, a concrete definition becomes ever more elusive.

Upload limits by channel

What we do know – roughly – is the current maximum upload/viewing times for videos across the leading social networks.

Maximum video length across leading social platforms




2 hours


60 seconds


30 seconds


10 seconds


6 seconds

I use the term ‘roughly’ because even these rules are open to interpretation. Facebook guidance on video size is characteristically blurry, with anything from 20mins, to 45mins, to 120mins being referenced as the maximum video length across numerous sources. Snapchat hackers tell us that it is possible to exceed the platform’s 10 second limit, and Instagram only moved up from a 15 second to a 60 second limit itself earlier this year. In the case of YouTube the channel does provide a default 15 minute limit, but in order to break this timeframe the user requires only a verified account to do so. Indeed who having once seen it, can ever unsee the full 10 hour rendition of ‘Taking the Hobbits to Isengard’. 

Face value   

Nonetheless if we take these figures at face value, it is clear to see a ‘3-Tier’ video services table emerging. You have your ‘feature length’ protagonists like YouTube and Facebook at the top, the mid-rangers in the middle, and Snapchat and Vine now forming their own exclusive club at the bottom of the table with extremely short parameters. When we produce videos for inPress Online, both experience and analytics indicate that videos of 2 – 4 minutes in length work best, since that offers enough time to tell a story and develop a concept without asking people to engage too much of their time. The 5-minute mark is a big psychological barrier to ask people to breakthrough, particularly on social.

In the case of Vine, such an unrelentingly short timeframe makes the use of video comparatively difficult in communicating messaging and emotions through the visual format. Vine is also a much more public facing channel than Snapchat, it’s closest competitor in terms of timing. And that of course makes it much more difficult to use individual videos as part of a wider conversation as opposed to a standalone piece of content. So in other words it’s very niche, and its new longer video length is undoubtedly an attempt by Twitter to broaden the platform’s audience.

Whether Vine’s move towards the mainstream makes it more appealing to the masses, or indeed alienates its existing userbase, remains to be seen. What we do know is that maximum video lengths are becoming increasingly open for debate across all of the major social media networks as platforms look to balance unique content hooks with more mainstream appeal.

Begun, the video war has.

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