Vine Can Turn Over a New Leaf

The defunct app may come back from the dead. Here’s how it can be even better.

Could Vine, the six-second looping-video app that doubled as a minifactory for some of the internet’s most viral and bizarre memes, make a comeback? Twitter bought the app in 2012 just a few months after its debut, and at the beginning of this year, it shuttered Vine and replaced it with a camera app that can only share to Twitter, not Vine’s separate feed. But on Wednesday, Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann tweeted a photo with a logo and caption that read “v2,” which followed a series of tweets from the week before about how he’s “going to work on a follow-up to vine.”

In response to Hofmann’s announcement, the internet basically did this:

With a little of this:

There’s a reason Hofman’s v2 tweet was retweeted more than 177,000 times: People want Vine back, and bad. When the app was officially shuttered in January, Vine’s adherents went into mourning, sharing emotional tweetstorms and listing their favorite videos made on the app. Many of Vine’s most popular stars weren’t trained entertainers. They were just people with a smartphone who had something funny or weird or beautiful to share, and over time, they turned the form into a medium in its own right.

The new Vine, whatever it is, won’t be a Twitter subsidiary but something funded by Hofmann himself “as an outside project, so it doesn’t interfere with the (quite exciting) work we’re doing at the company, which is my first priority.” (That company is a rather mysterious startup called Interspace.)

But if Vine really does come back and Hofmann hopes to make it sustainable—because, after all, it can’t run without at least some engineers and product development people on hand—he might want to find a way to make it profitable. And that would probably mean selling ads. Since Vine’s appeal was its looped videos—which meant before you knew it you’d find yourself watching the same hilarious clip 10 times—pre- or post-roll ads definitely won’t work. But they could go in the main or discovery feeds of a resuscitated Vine, with ads placed between photos of users you follow or are searching for. Vine didn’t have a strong advertising model before it shut down, and marketers had largely abandoned the platform as a place for brand promotion, though there was a small economy for Vine stars who were paid for product placements and endorsements.

A Vine resurrection also means an opportunity for a social media platform to get its community standards and enforcement right from the start. That means being conscious about the kinds of videos that rise to the top of the app’s featured sections—i.e. finding a way to exclude Vines that promote white nationalism, sexism, or bigotry. It also means attempting to police cyberbullying and harassment, which is no easy task, especially since the videos are posted instantly. Still, having firm community guidelines and a commitment keeping the platform a safe and friendly place for diverse users from the start is a better foundation than the one that a lot of tech companies, like Twitter and Facebook, are working from.

Also, of course, people in tech are known for puffing up ideas before they come to fruition. Remember when Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he got “verbal govt approval” for a New York–to-D.C. Hyperloop in July? That was news to city, state, and federal officials. So until v2, or whatever Hofman decides to call it, is actually a thing, don’t hold your breath for more than six seconds waiting for it.