Vine in a New Bottle

Byte, the second coming of Vine

Last week, Byte, a video-sharing app developed as a successor to Vine, launched on Android and iOS devices. Like its predecessor, Byte enables users to capture and upload six-second looping videos.

Vine was co-founded by Dom Hofmann in June 2012 and acquired by Twitter in January 2013, with its popularity continuing even after the acquisition. At its peak, Vine had more than 200 million active users, thanks to rapid-fire comedy skits and the creativity unlocked by the app’s looping effect. But soon after the acquisition by Twitter, top Vine content creators started having doubts about the time they spent on the platform. Vine stars shifted focus to YouTube and Instagram, where they could make more money for the same content. Around the same time, Vine’s popularity plummeted, leading to Twitter shutting it down in late 2016.

Like other social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, Byte lets users post content that could go viral and spark engagement. At present, the platform hides follower counts and doesn’t allow user profiles to be shared, making it hard to see who the top creators are. Byte is planning a creator’s programme to help influencers cash in. Although the service offers features that are common among social media networks, like an Explore page, notifications and profiles, it lacks augmented reality filters, transition effects, the ability to remix content, as well as bonus features found on rival app, TikTok.

Byte is currently available in more than 40 countries, including the US, Canada, parts of Europe, Russia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Byte has narrowed its focus to select locations for now as it has a small operational team, but plans to expand the list of countries over time. Byte isn’t available in mainland China, which is home to TikTok’s parent, ByteDance. China has strict guidelines when it comes to social media, making it hard for Western companies to find their footing in the market.

At launch, Byte looks engaging and has the benefit of early hype. But pulling users away from TikTok will be a big challenge, and Byte will be relying on nostalgia to muster enough activity to recreate Vine’s magic. To differentiate itself from the crowded field, and to attract users from TikTok, Byte should provide opportunities for its top creators to make money, in turn motivating them to keep posting to the app.

With TikTok currently under investigation by the US government over security and censorship concerns, Byte’s release seems to have come at an opportune moment to jump-start adoption. “Nostalgia is our starting point, but where we go next is up to you,” reads its description in app stores. People nostalgic for Vine appear open to giving Byte a try.