Untangling the Vine
Yesterday Microsoft announced a new service called Vine at http://www.vine.net and it caused quite a stir both in the blogosphere and Twittosphere. As one might expect of a web-centric product announcement from Microsoft it took quite a lambasting on Twitter, the general attitude there being “its a Twitter clone – typical Microsoft, late to the game as usual” although the reaction on various blogs was a little kinder (even Michael Arrington at TechCrunch was relatively upbeat about it). Some of the more reasoned and objective comments that I saw included:
Some are comparing the service to Twitter, but I don’t exactly see the connection other than it lets you communicate with your friends, which could pretty much be said of any social network, email service, or telephone
What’s cool about Vine is that it’s not trying to be an alternative to Twitter, but Microsoft has clearly sat back and looked at one of the most popular uses of Twitter–spreading important information quickly among a users network. Twitter does this now, but if an earthquake hits California, getting any valuable information is like trying to listen to the Fire Chief give instructions while everyone else in the room is talking about the great sushi they just ate.
I totally agree with those opinions, Vine is definitely not intended to compete with Twitter. Given that Vine collects information from many sources (including Twitter) it seems to be closer to Friendfeed than Twitter although even that is not an apples-to-apples comparison; anyone that took the time to read the fact sheet that Microsoft provided would have learned that with Vine one can:
“Stay in touch with family and friends, be informed when someone you care about needs help. Get involved to create great neighborhoods, communities or causes”
“Organize people into groups so it’s easy to send information to them all at once”
“Microsoft Vine is appropriate for any small group of people who want to stay in touch, informed and involved”
Communities. Causes. Stay informed. Send Information. None of those phrases spring to my mind when I think of Twitter; Twitter is a mass-broadcast mechanism which Vine, clearly, is not intended to be. From what I’ve read so far the central premise of Vine is to organise content per group and that is what really excites me about it. I talk about the power of groups quite a lot on this blog and fundamentally believe that the notion of self-organising affinity groups has much more potential for how we use the web in the future than is currently prevalent in the plethora of social networking tools out there right now. That’s the point that I was trying to make when in February 2009 I wrote:
I’m fascinated by how the implicit and explicit behaviour of us and our social circles might be used to provide us with a better online experience in the future
Reading between the lines it seems as if Vine is intended to be used on a locality basis and that’s a great example of where the power of a group (in this case a group of people that live in the same locale) can join together to provide an overall better experience by sharing information pertinent to that locale. I have long believed that the potential of locality-based services and networks has not been tapped and I confidently predict that such services will be the cornerstone of the next evolution of the web.
Whether or not Vine is a key to unlock the latent power of affinity groups only time will tell and I myself will not be able to learn much for a long time yet given it is only going to be available in the US initially. Nonetheless I’ll be keeping a keen eye on developments