Short-form video content is taking the digital space by storm with platforms and brands catering to shorter attention spans and a heightened expectation of relevancy and memorability. This is no longer optional in our mobile-driven world. In fact, recent projections estimate that total revenue from short-form videos are expected to hit $13 billion this year.
In the spirit of understanding where this trend began and where we are today, let’s take a look at the platforms that have played an important role in its development.
Vine, the six-second looping video app was founded by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll in 2012. It was acquired by Twitter in 2012 for $30 million before it officially launched on January 24th, 2013 as an iOS application. The Android version closely followed that summer. Within a two-month span, Vine rapidly gained popularity becoming the most popular and most utilized video-sharing app in the market.
In April of 2013, Vine earned the title of most-downloadable free app from the App Store triggering the release of the desktop version in May of the following year. At its peak, Vine boasted 200 million monthly active users.
Vine’s claim to fame was the introduction of new memes and slang still referenced widely today such as “on fleek” and “What are thoooose?” Music labels including Island Records and Republic records quickly took notice, reaching out to Vine personalities like Shawn Mendes expressing interest in recording contracts.
To users’ disappointment, Vine shut down in 2016 facing increasing competition from other platforms who were looking for a piece of the short-form video action. Hofmann proceeded to tease a possible Vine 2.0 in December of 2017 — a project that was postponed partially due to prohibited legal fees.
Launched in 2011, Snapchat or Snap for short, was a hub dedicated only for ephemeral photo and text sharing. The concept was born by three founders Evan Spiegel, Reggie Brown and Bobby Murphy under the name Picaboo and only amassed 127 users. Following a disagreement over equity share, Spiegel and Murphy rebranded the app to Snapchat after removing Brown from the endeavor.
The app was swift in its rise to fame, particularly among younger users. According to 2019 research, 90 percent of all 13-24-year-olds and 75 percent of all 13-34-year-olds use Snapchat in the U.S. Overall, the app has amassed more than 210 million daily active users to date.
Snapchat’s competitive edge remains in its ability to tap into augmented reality and deliver one-of-a-kind immersive experiences through filters and interactive lenses. Many would claim today Snapchat was the OG “Stories” before Instagram and Facebook hopped on the bandwagon. Building off of this, in 2015 Snapchat unveiled “Discover,” a fun and interactive source of content from media partners.
The app continues to strive for as close to in-person interactions as possible. Users are able to share photos and videos that only last several seconds before they disappear, leaving no history of their quirky and embarrassing moments. The key terms here are private and permission-based, including notifications for when someone has saved or screenshotted one of your Snapchats.
While Instagram is known for its polished posts (static photos and video), and later, its Stories format—first pioneered by Snap—the platform has made moves to avail the short-form content trend. In 2015, Instagram launched the Boomerang app, which has since been folded within its Stories feature. By capturing a video via the Boomerang filter, users can create GIF-like, looping content.
On the whole, Instagram has made Stories its home for short-form video. Similar to Snap and unlike Vine and TikTok, these bits of content are ephemeral by nature—that is, unless the user or brand chooses to pin the Story to their profile page. This is a tactic used by many influencers and brands in order to make short-form videos a more permanent part of their profiles.
In addition to their short-form features via Stories, Instagram has pushed forward with IGTV, a deliberately longer-form format. Instagram even created a dedicated app to IGTV, but recently sunsetted it. TechCrunch reported that only 1 percent of users downloaded the additional app, testing the hypothesis that users had an appetite for a longer-form experience outside of Instagram proper.
Since its launch in 2017, TikTok, originally known as Musical.ly, has gained notable traction among tweens and teens around the globe.
The platform continues to grow in size and scale, surpassing 1.5 billion downloads as of November 2019 on the App Store and Google Play. The same year, TikTok also reached the 1 billion download threshold and was named the seventh most downloaded mobile app of the decade.
Beyond lip-syncing Gen Z-ers, major brands and A-list celebs including Coca-Cola, Nike, Google and Khloé Kardashian are using TikTok to push sponsored posts or run ad campaigns that appeal to younger, influential audiences. From a general user standpoint, the app also serves as a popular hub for extracting meme-able content to share with friends and family.
Dance clips are highly popular as well as tumbling and stunt-centered sports including gymnastics and cheerleading. Comedy too is a prominent theme across uploads given this is a space where users are encouraged to step away from the filtered and flawless and focus on the authentic ways to depict their true personalities.
Eight years after teasing a Vine predecessor, Don Hoffman is looking to make good on his promise to give users what they asked for with Byte. “We’re bringing back six-second looping videos and the community that loved them,” the app’s description states in the iOS App Store. “Nostalgia is our starting point, but where we go next is up to you.”
Similarly to Vine, Byte gives people the choice to upload videos recorded outside of the app or use the built-in camera to shoot their six-second clips. Content is also easily downloadable from the app for easy cross-platform use in cases where you may want to share with your Twitter or Instagram followers. In a nod to TikTok’s “For You” page, Byte is set up such that once you open the app, your timeline of content is fed on an endless scroll.
As far as the audience the app seems to be attracting in its early stages, a variety of users have downloaded the app. This includes people new to the short-form game and current TikTokers and former Viners.
Brands may soon be able to test the waters with Byte as well, the app recently teasing in a tweet that, “Very soon, we’ll introduce a pilot version of our partner program, which we will use to pay creators. Byte celebrates creativity and community, and compensating creators is one important way we can support both. Stay tuned for more info.”
From Vine as the pioneer and one step in the evolution paving the way for Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, it appears Byte is the bookend to the story. While long-form still has its place in storytelling, there’s no denying we’re in a mobile-first age where quick, digestible, and dynamic are the criteria dominating the strategies to communicate value and drive traffic to businesses.