Peter Heacock, who joined Vine in 2013 and started a group called Unpopular Now, shares why he loved the mobile app.
I first opened Vine in January 2013 and was transfixed.
The Popular Now page was awash with interesting experimentations in animation, art and storytelling. At the time I was a filmmaker who was trying and failing to get my work seen on the internet. I wanted to go viral. 6 seconds? No problem Ive got this.
I began to experiment.
About two weeks in, I was commuting to work and posted this. It reached the top of the platform in two hours. I checked every 15 minutes to make sure it was still there. Getting seen. Getting noticed. Interacting with people whom I had never met. Shouting out into the void I AM HERE and for the first time, people hearing the shout.
Baby had gone viral. I had taken my first steps into a world that would change my life forever.
Vine is a beautiful piece of design. Push to record. Remove finger from screen to stop. Fill up 6.5 seconds, title and post the loop. With simple tools come the tricks: Tap the screen precisely for single frame animation. Shoot reverse shot for conversations and comedic scenes. The seamless loop (corypoppins).
And the mother of them all Assistive Touch (Shout out to KeelayJams) where you could set a timer, walk in front of the camera and record yourself.
And jailbreaking phones to hack the program (Lunar Mayor).
Or standing in the cold to tap a screen at precise increments (GooRee).
Then came vinemagic and the #88C crew who summoned early George Mileau with trick edits.
Meanwhile competition on the Popular Now page was getting heated, and props and production value was ramping up. Comedy was exploding like lemons from a gaping mouth. Collaboration became key. The Folks in New York and LA were actually getting together to make vines. The digital was becoming organic. We were becoming friends! Social Media actually became social.
Some really funny Vines were made.
Some really random Vines as well.
I met so many people in those early days mostly on Facebook actually. I had a young son at the time, and my times soothing him in the middle of the night were illuminated by the glow of my phone and nelw friends. It was like being back at film school. Everyone was friendly, interesting and inspired.
I had an idea: Why not get together under one banner? We could call it Unpopular Now.” For two weeks, we posted in secret. We unveiled the site on June 13, 2013. unPOP created challenges #unPOPmashup, #unPOPidol, #unPOPremake. People contributed, more friends were made, more talent discovered. The community grew.
Twitter reached out to see if we were interested in working with brands. I could make money from this little app? Are you kidding? I need insurance? Ill get it. Need to be incorporated? Done. Within four months, I had quit my job and was a full-time Viner. Three years later we look like this.
I taught myself how be a stop motion animator. I asked my Vine friends about rigs and movement and tricks. We were getting better.
Others were getting downright famous. Marcus Johns staged the first #VineMeetup and was greeted by hundreds.
Jerome and Nash went to Iceland and were nearly trampled.
I made so many that Im proud of. Here are a few:
It was all happening. The selfie camera was turned on and Android users were introduced, and the boy brands began to take over. Magcon held events and jumped around onstage to adoring 11-year old-girls. People humped furniture to R&B songs.
We were getting better at art and story and comedy and PR and personal branding. I made Vines with a gorilla and my son was not scared.
I got my first big check, and I finally realized I could make a living doing this. People were seeing my work. My friends and I had an audience.
Sometimes there would be lulls and rumblings of Vine being dead, but then it would come roaring back with the vibrant LNPP community posting amazing challenges until early in the morning. AllNaturalVines kept the old-school spirit of Vine alive much past the advent of the upload. Tony Besides invented the daily fiction vlog. The seamless loop by Corey. The loveable, creepy Jess. The forever viral meme queens of Anne and Alicia. The artestry of Origiful. Forever Funny Dads. Simply Sylvio. Justin Terio. The Lopriores. The consistently killer content of Jerome, Rudy, Nick, Marcus. The music of Trench, Leslie, Linda. The community of unPOP grew and the app was more vibrant than ever.
And then something happened. Everyone got really good at content. Other platforms wanted that content. Snapchat unveiled Stories. Insta introd video. YouTube became crazy profitable and some creators began to see if they could make longer content elsewhere. And heres where it gets tricky.
Vine had the community, but it didnt have the dexterity to change. Rather than work on Vine messages, they could have developed a version of Snapchats story. They would have sparked more content for their app by placing vines together in a continuous piece. The lists was a terrible design for an app that had prided itself on flawless design. Owned by Twitter, it progressed like Twitter As in, didnt progress at all.
Perhaps the biggest single killer of Vine was taking out the competition. If you had the best Vine in the world, you had the number one spot on the app. When they randomized the Popular Now page, this killed the competitive spirit. When they created channels, they only pushed the same creators over and over. They dropped the ball on the finding good material and pushing it. Its not anyone on the staff to blame, their hands were tied with limited employees and an app that was yielding zero money for a company with disappointing stock prices. The big celebrities moved to Snap, YouTube and Facebook en masse. They went to where the eyeballs were. People still posted to Vine, but it wasnt vibrant. Longer videos on Vine was unveiled too late despite the brilliant #CampUnplug. Integration to Twitter was clunky at best.
Twitter is great a few things but terrible at adapting. In the word of social adaptation is everything. And so with a heavy heart I read that my favorite app ever will be killed.
I cried. I did. I cried going through my feed and all of the videos that I admired. All of the experiences came flooding back. The memories. The community. Twitter burned down our house. We all got out just fine, but we lost our photo albums, our notebooks, our computers with years of work. Its lost in the ashes of Vine.
I cant understand how they couldnt pivot. To incorporate Vine into Twitter. To reinvent Vine, an app that still resides in so many phones. It seems to be about the money. And sometimes a match must be lit to save a larger company.
But heres the important point: we escaped the building intact and alive with memories and experience. When we look around, we are not Vine friends, now we are just friends. And that is the legacy of this little app. The genuine love for one another. We experienced three years of magic and heartache. The passing of Nick Spears.
and Emma Greer.
So many friends, lovers, some marriages and a Megalis baby on the way. It was a life we made six seconds at a time. And that life and those relationships will exist forever.
unPOP will continue to make remarkable content for international brands. The competition of Vine has taught me to make better commercials than a traditional commercial director. I know why people like and share content. Short commercials are the future, and I will continue to make a living making ads more entertaining.
But heres the real point: Social media is bullsh*t. It does not replace communities. It allows for us to interact within comfortable bubbles. It provides the illusion of intimacy and collaboration, but mostly its a dumping ground for passive aggressive political views, advocacy and pseudo-knowledge that limits an understanding and respect of our common man and variation in beliefs.
Vine was different. We did it for the Vine because it was fun, creative and bled out into the actual world. A world where we embraced our neighbors and our differences. We created magic with our hands and minds and created real friendships through our actions. Vine is real. That is its legacy. I will miss the virtual community we built but will continue to treasure the actual community we currently reside within.
I love you all. Continue to make. Continue to breathe creativity into the void. I am endlessly excited to see what we create. Make is what we do. #unPOP Forever. Viner Forever. Vine is dead. We are not.
Peter Heacock is founder and creative director of Unpopular Now, a branded content studio and production company that specializes in making stop-motion art. He joined Vine in January 2013 and formed unPOP a year later to help companies, including Armani, Budweiser, Target and Lancome, make creative content. You can follow him on Twitter @peteheacock and see his work at www.unpopnow.com.