Appitude: The newest Twitter trend—sharing six-second videos on Vine—is surprisingly retro

Virginia Heffernan is the national correspondent for Yahoo! News, covering culture and politics from a digital perspective. She wrote extensively on Internet culture during her eight years as a staff writer for The New York Times, and she has also worked at Harper’s, the New Yorker and Slate. Her book, “Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet,” is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster.

By Virginia Heffernan

If you believe a nubile new video app called Vine is sweeping the nation because Vine is a masterpiece or at least a better mousetrap, think again. Vine—which hit the Web last week and lets you share looping, six-second videos on Twitter—is just fine and plenty fun, but Vine is not suddenly everywhere on the Internet because it’s extra-special. It’s not even everywhere because someone used it to tweet porn early in the game, and Vine accidentally endorsed a XXX vid. No. Vine is everywhere because it belongs to Twitter.

In other words, she’s pretty cool and she’s the boss’s daughter. No wonder she’s the debutante of the season.

The Twitter story reverses the “Field of Dreams” vision of “if you build it, he will come.” Instead, with Twitter, we showed up—some 300 million Twitter users now—for what was initially a fairly thin set of text communications protocols. But we stayed on Twitter because other people did, and then they came because we were all there, learning in unison to compose epigrams with #hashtags and @replies and links.

Simultaneously, Twitter built itself in response to our presence and our activities.  Having begun in 2006 as a place to circulate verbal chips and salsa, it didn’t become the so-called New Twitter until 2010, when it started letting users see photos and videos without leaving Twitter.

For years, third-party developers turned out Twitter add-ons like TweetDeck and Twistori. But now Twitter has decided to take charge of developing its own Internet real estate. This is like the oil companies getting friendly with the railroads in the 19th century. Ultimately, people in oil and gas like to be in real estate, too. Similarly, people in social networking get into app development. Synergies are discovered; profits are made; markets are happy, then not; oligopolies are busted up. And repeat. It’s the American way.

So what is Vine, besides Twitter’s first foray into owning not just the rails but the stuff that rides the rails? In short, Vine is a way to rediscover, and pleasingly exploit, the magic of animation. (If you’re not on Twitter or Vine, here’s a good place to watch some Vine videos.)

I’ve made a few Vine videos, or “Vines” (I guess that's what they’re called?), and I enjoyed it. Remember the time you and your brother hauled out your dad’s brandless movie camera, set up Chewbacca and Princess Leia, and prepared thumb and forefinger for a brutal 40-hour marathon of “stop-action animation”? It’s like that. Neato.

I mean, I realize that childhoods are different, and a few did not take place in the 1970s, in the Dawn of Industrial Light and Magic. But, whether you were born in 1940 or 1990, there’s gotta be a moment when someone showed you how animation works, with a flip-book or maybe a Muybridge zoopraxiscope, if you happen to be 100.

Let that dawning dawn again. To make a Vine video, you open the app on your phone/movie camera and hold a button down. When you let go, the camera stops rolling. You can then point it elsewhere, or move around what you’re shooting, and start it up again. In this way, you can do rad jumpcuts or just start-and-stop-and-move-and-start-again with the wonderful, tedious patience of a Claymation animator.

I went for jump cuts first and enjoyed catching a panorama with significant missing parts. My video looked hectic and urban and even disturbing with all its motion and gaps, especially when I shot from inside a Manhattan taxi. I then started to try animation, and started to make a glass of water that looked like it was magically emptying. But I was too lazy even to return the glass to the right spot. So it just looked like a glass jumping around on a table. You couldn’t even really tell that the water level was going down.

Vine videos play on an endless loop so they have a kind of glitchy, broken-record look that is maybe retro. I’m not sure I like it, especially after one by Tyra Banks, lost under a bunch of Chrome windows on my desktop, wouldn’t stop repeating its goofy dialogue.

But I do like the wicked-easy sharing and the intuitive controls. I also like the curation: There’s a lot of Exploring and Discovering and Editor’s Picks. For a week-old app, Vine—boosted by Twitter’s marketing and integrating—already seems flush with users and content. Every new Vine video attracts comments, and you’d think users were commenting on some century-old craft, like needlework, as they get into the nitty-gritty of “How did you do that?!”

Everybody just saw this app a few days ago, guys. We’re all just figuring it out. Some, I guess, are figuring faster than others. The height of achievement on Vine—aside from the promotion of Vine itself, which is Vine’s actual proudest achievement—is a Legos fantasia, as of this writing. Someone named Hunter Harrison put Legos Batman and Legos Robin on a gray Legos surface and had the caped crusaders scope out and destroy their enemies.

“How did you do this without your hand getting in the way?” one commenter, awestruck, asked. Ah. The magic of stop-motion. It never gets old, even when everything else is new.

  • Hyundai Motor unveils small SUV concept for China, to launch this year

    By Hyunjoo Jin SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's Hyundai Motor on Sunday unveiled its small sport utility vehicle (SUV) concept targeted at the Chinese market, planning to join a flurry of rivals in tapping the growing segment in the world's biggest market. Hyundai said it had picked popular Korean actor Kim Soo-hyun to promote the subcompact SUV ix25, to capitalize on the Korean pop culture boom in wooing Chinese customers aged between 25 and 35. Small SUVs are a bright spot in key markets from China and India to the United States and Europe, offering the functionality and space of SUVs in an affordable small vehicle. In China, General Motors and Ford Motor are offering small SUVs Trax and EcoSport, respectively, among other carmakers.

  • In the driving seat: China's yuppies are new market force for global automakers

    By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Global automakers are scrambling to meet the demands of China's young urban professionals, who want a car that makes them stand out, yet don't always have the money to splurge on a top-end model. After nearly two decades of frenzied growth driven mainly by the very wealthy, China's auto market is maturing, yet remains ferociously competitive with manufacturers having to react quickly to shifting consumer trends. People like Zhou Wenxi, a 32-year-old Shanghai cram-school owner, and Guo Yetao, 23, a software salesman from Hangzhou, are fuelling two trends: hot demand for smaller crossover sport utility vehicles like Ford Motor Co's EcoSport; There is a potential "seismic shift" in the influence these young urban professionals will have on China's auto market, says Yale Zhang, head of Automotive Foresight, a Shanghai-based consultant.

  • VW has agreed budget car concept, design: manager

    Volkswagen has agreed the basic concept and design of a budget car for emerging markets, a VW manager told Reuters, nearing the project's completion after a long struggle to meet cost targets for the vehicle. "The concept and design are now in place," Hans Demant, responsible for the so-called budget car project at VW, told Reuters on the eve of the Beijing auto show. "We will produce all components in China." Demant's comments are more upbeat than those of VW brand development chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser who said at last month's Geneva auto show that it was becoming more difficult to hit cost goals for the budget car, adding it made no sense to approve a vehicle that was not meeting in-house targets. VW lacks a strong presence in markets such as India and southeast Asia which are dominated by no-frills models, and without a successful budget car, analysts have questioned whether the group will be able to meet its goal of becoming the world's biggest carmaker by 2018.

  • BMW in final stages of decision on potential new factory

    Germany's BMW is getting closer to deciding whether it will build a new factory, its board member Ian Robertson said on Sunday, as the luxury carmaker expands capacity to meet demand in key markets. "We are in the final stages of deciding where the plant will be," Robertson told reporters at the Auto China show in Beijing on Sunday. Robertson said several locations were under consideration, though he declined to elaborate. Earlier this year, BMW said it planned to expand capacity at its plant in Spartanburg in the United States to boost production levels of its sports utility vehicles.

  • Pfizer considers $100 billion bid for AstraZeneca: report
    Pfizer considers $100 billion bid for AstraZeneca: report

    U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has approached British rival AstraZeneca to propose a 60 billion pound ($101 billion) takeover, Britain's Sunday Times reported. The paper cited senior investment bankers and industry sources saying that informal conversations about a deal had taken place between the two but that no talks were currently under way after AstraZeneca resisted the approach. Pfizer and AstraZeneca both declined to comment on the report to Reuters. AstraZeneca, Britain's second-biggest pharmaceuticals group, has been frequently touted as a potential takeover target as it wrestles with patents expiring on a number of best-selling drugs, leaving future growth uncertain.

  • Telus in new agreement to buy Canadian startup Mobilicity

    (Reuters) - Telus Corp , one of Canada's dominant telecom providers, has reached a new agreement to acquire struggling wireless startup Mobilicity, in a renewed bid to overcome government objections on competition grounds. Mobilicity said late Thursday that it agreed to be acquired by Telus for C$350 million and that a court-appointed monitor has recommended the transaction. The government last year twice blocked attempts by Telus to buy Mobilicity on grounds the acquisition would create undue concentration of ownership of wireless spectrum. Under a deal blocked in June, Telus would have paid C$380 million.

  • SEC weighs requiring brokers to identify where trades made: Bloomberg

    (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is weighing a proposal that would require brokers to tell investors exactly where their stock trades are executed, Bloomberg reported on Saturday. The proposed requirement would give investors more clarity on whether they were getting the best prices for the buy and sell orders they entrust to brokers, who can choose from dozens of stock exchanges and private venues, the report said, citing three people familiar with the matter. The SEC, which is the regulator in charge of analyzing the stock market's structure, is reviewing all aspects of how stocks are traded and seeking to identify changes that could quickly be implemented, the report said. An SEC spokesman could not be reached on Saturday.

  • Rajaratnam's brother loses bid to dismiss insider trading charges

    By Nate Raymond NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rengan Rajaratnam, the younger brother of imprisoned hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, on Friday lost a bid to dismiss some of the insider trading charges leveled against him last year. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled that the indictment adequately alleged the essential elements of the crimes charged. A lawyer for Rajaratnam did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment.

Follow Yahoo! News