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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Twitter Introduces Vine, a New Video Feature, But With Privacy Snags

On Thursday, Twitter introduced Vine, a new video sharing service, albeit with a few serious privacy hiccups.

Several users who signed up for the service on Thursday said that when they tried to use the video service, they discovered that they were logged in as another user.

One user, Keith Whamond, told the technology blog AllThingsD that he was able to see another user’s private contact information, including his unlisted e-mail and telephone number.

Twitter did not immediately respond to request for comment, but only hours after starting the new feature, the company said it was temporarily disabling Twitter and Facebook sharing.

That privacy breach spoiled what otherwise would have been a promising new rollout for Twitter. Vine, which Twitter acquired for an undisclosed sum last fall, gives the company the opportunity to dip a toe in one area of the Internet where it has so far failed to gain a footing: video. According to ComScore, which monitors online video traffic, 86 percent of the Web audience in the United States viewed online video last October, the last month for which data is available. Of the more than 3! 7 billion online videos they viewed, the majority â€" 13 billion â€" were on Google’s YouTube video sharing service.

On smartphones, YouTube is the sixth most popular mobile app, with nearly 53 million users in December alone, also according to ComScore. It is also the only video service to break into the top 10 mobile apps. Other video services like CBS Connect, Hulu, Netflix and HBO Go still cannot compete.

Video could be a lucrative area for Twitter to play in â€" video ads account for more than half of all videos viewed and some 1.6 percent of all minutes spent viewing online video are spent with video ads.

Vine allows users to shoot and share bite-size, six-second-long looping video clips. That constraint, Twitter said, meshes with its 140-character-or-less model for Tweets.

“Like Tweets, the brevity of videos on Vine (6 seconds or less) inspires creativity,” Michael Sipey, Twitter’s vice president for product, wrote in a blog post Thursday. “Now that you can easily capture motion and sound, we look forward to seeing what you create.”

One company that was probably amused by Vine’s privacy snag Thursday is Tout, a competitive video start-up that has long marketed itself as a “Twitter for video.” Tout, which counts Shaquille O’Neal and The Wall Street Journal as users, lets people create videos of up to 15 seconds that can be embedded in Tweets, on Facebook and other sites, and is available for iPhones and Android phones.

For now, Vine is available only for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but Twitter said it was working to bring the service to other platforms.