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Friday, January 25, 2013

Test Run: Vine, Twitter\'s New Video Sharing App

Applications designed to let you record and post short videos to the Web almost always disappoint. The final products tend to be too grainy, too noisy and too shaky to be worth watching.

But Vine, a new video application for the iPhone introduced by Twitter on Thursday, lets users create and share miniature videos that are six seconds long and set to loop automatically, similar to an animated GIF. The app is brilliantly simple: users just aim their cameras at what they want to capture, tap the screen once to start filming and tap it once more to stop. They can film a single shot for the maximum time allotted or quickly cut together a series of scenes using the tap-to-edit feature.

That super-easy editing feature, likely to appeal to amateur and professional auteurs alike, is what makes Vine intriguing and fun. And plenty of people are already having fun with the medium. On popular clip (below) features a time-lapse video of a banana rapidly disappearing as it is consumed, while another clip creates a short comedy about a staring contest gone horribly awry. The app is great for quirky, herky-jerky minimovies, reminiscent of stop-motion animation. It’s easy to imagine creative Twitter users coming up with clever and entertaining clips capturing moments in their lives and events in real time, like concerts or big events.

Vine has one glaring and frustrating drawback: videos can be shared only upon completion  and only through the app itself or on Twitter. This makes it difficult to experiment with the medium, since each creation must be shared publicly for it to be viewed.

Just as Twitter compressed speech into 140 characters, condensing interactions and forcing people to rethink the way they communicate online, Vine seems capable of nudging those same people to concoct and tell visual stories about their daily lives. It takes the status update to a new level. Why tweet about what you made for lunch when you can churn out an entertaining little movie about how you made it â€" and show your face after you ate it

It’s also a signal that Twitter views itself increasingly as a media company, one that will “create, curate, and co-create media experiences on top of its platform,” as John Battelle, one of the founders of Wired magazine, wrote in a recent blog post.

While that may be true,  less clear is what it will be like when Vine is used for documenting and sharing breaking news. I’s one thing to watch a cleverly edited montage of a birthday party or celebration, and another entirely when it comes to a tragedy or natural disaster.