Elon Musk doesn't need Vine, he needs a plan

Elon Musk and Twitter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is it time to revive Vine? Current Twitter owner, CEO, and the man who cannot ponder anything unless it's in public, Elon Musk, casually posed the question in a Twitter poll on Monday.

Proposing raising a platform from the dead. Could there be a more perfect Halloween tweet?

Before there were TikTok, Reels, Snapchat stories, and YouTube Shorts, there was Vine, a six-second video platform that improbably spawned countless broader media stars including Zach King, King Back, Lele Pons, and Shawn Mendes.

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It took skill to be good at Vine and work within its six-second limitations to create something compelling and shareable. I used to enjoy creating animated unboxings and brief comedy bits with my friend, Canadian comedian Brittlestar.

Unfortunately, the tools were so specific and inscrutable to the average social media human that Vine struggled mightily to grow. Eventually, parent company Twitter gave up and shuttered the platform in 2016.

Perhaps Vine's failure presaged TikTok's rise. The latter almost tripled the video length (initially 15 seconds, and now up to 10 minutes for some creators), threw out the confining square template, and offered a collection of tools that any internet persona of any age could grasp. Its deep connection to lip-syncing videos didn't hurt (TikTok started as Musical.ly and was a massive hit with the tween set).

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Vine lost. TikTok won and inspired a legion of imitators, including those from Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Musk, who doesn't seem to know exactly what he wants to do to his new toy is throwing out ideas that could either help or destroy it. On the help side might be smart ways of ensuring that accounts are backed by actual humans. On the hurt side is possibly charging verified users to remain verified.

A Vine resurrection falls somewhere in the middle.

I wouldn't call it inspired. Musk seems to have forgotten Twitter's dalliance with Fleets, a knee-jerk response to the rise of Stories on various platforms including Snapchat. Fleets appeared in early 2020 and went nowhere while the pandemic locked-down planet gravitated to TikTok. Fleets were declared dead a year later.

Musk is at least self-aware enough to know the massive hurdle a revived Vines would face. In an exchange with popular online personality Mr. Beast, who noted that Twitter competing with Tiktok would "be hilarious," Musk asked, I think, somewhat seriously, "What could we do to make it better than TikTok?"

My answer would be nothing. As Mr. Beast noted, "No one is original anymore. Whatever you do will be on every other platform the next month unless it's a deep mote."

Elon Musk and Twitter and Vine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That's the point, really. Whatever Musk launches, even if he calls it Vine or Vine 2.0, it can't and won't be Vine (even the short-lived off-Twitter planet Vine revival Byte wasn't exactly Vine, either). It would have to be TikTok Ultimate. Even then, a feature-rich, easy-to-use, and highly shareable video platform would be special for a month before TikTok added one or two new features to beat it.

Musk faces a massive challenge right now, one that seems to get more difficult each day through mostly self-inflicted wounds.

I know people, including me, miss Vine and what it stood for. And I felt a wave of nostalgia as I read through tweets from luminaries like Zach King, and former Vine stalwart Matt Cutshall (who does a decent Tiktok) who all voiced their support for a revival. Even the poll is 69% in favor.

But that can't be how Musk makes strategic decisions about Twitter. He can't relaunch Vine because people say they want it. We want a lot of stuff and much of it isn't good for us.

Vine isn't good for Twitter anymore. Walk away from it, Musk, walk away and come up with a real plan.

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.