Six seconds. That’s the time it takes for a 1989 Ferrari Testarossa to go from 0-60 mph, a hummingbird to beat its wings 180 times, and a cheetah to run 100 yards.
It’s also the length of a video on Vine, a free smartphone app that made it easy for users to record, edit and share quick snippets of their life on Twitter and other social media sites.
Following its debut in January, Vine became the most downloaded free app in the Apple App store just three months later. Later, an Android version only increased its popularity, with Windows Phone 8 on the horizon.
Founded in June 2012 by Colin Kroll, Dom Hofmann and Rus Yusupov, the company was acquired just five months later by Twitter for $30 million, which is fitting because this social network is also all about making it easy for users to tell a story in a brief amount of time.
Vine’s time limit of six seconds wasn’t just dictated by our short attention spans. “We knew we needed a time limit because it helped us solve problems associated with video, such as upload and download speeds,” Kroll said. After testing lengths from as long as unlimited to as short as 1 second, “we found that six seconds was the ideal length, from both the production and consumption side.”
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Vine now boasts more than 40 million users, including everyone from major news organizations to Paul McCartney to Urban Outfitters — Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are particularly active. And, like its user base, videos are just as diverse, from Ryan Gosling refusing cereal to someone watching the Boston marathon bombing on TV. Dunkin’ Donuts even used Vines to create a television commercial. Since its inception, more than 93 million Vines have been posted to Twitter alone.
Vine now has company in this nascent category. Instagram, which has more than 150 million users, launched a video-creation-and-sharing feature of its own in June — with 15-second clips — and saw more than 5 million videos uploaded in the first day alone.
“One of the core problems that Vine solves was, how can you make an interesting video without a lot of sophisticated video editing tools?” Brian Blau, the research director in consumer technology for Gartner, said. “That learning curve isn’t there with Vine. It limits the content that you can put into Vine, but at the same time, it really lowers the barrier to entry.”
There’s also a risk of the novelty wearing off. Since hitting a high of 1 million tweets on June 8, the number of original Vines posted each day has steadily dropped to about 250,000 as of mid-November.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, “they have to continue to market themselves, improve upon the features, and they have to build in features that help that app grow,” Blau says.
It looks like Vine is doing just that. Sessions let users create up to 10 posts at once, and save and work on them later, while Time Travel lets you edit finished Vines before they’re posted. In a sea of video share apps, Vine stands out for its sheer simplicity, creativity and viral appeal.
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