Controversial Vine app for iPhone good for porn and little else
Review • Initial Twitter videos seem void of anything worth watching.
Published: January 29, 2013 09:37PM
Updated: January 29, 2013 09:34PM
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Courtesy image Vine is a new iPhone app that is like Twitter for video in which you can tweet six-second videos to followers.

Vine is only a week old, and it’s already entangled in controversy.

Vine is a new iPhone app from the people behind Twitter that is essentially Twitter with video instead of 140 characters. It allows users to tweet six seconds of video with sound to their followers. As it seems with any technological innovation, Vine’s first week of release naturally had a porn problem — some began tweeting six-second clips of hardcore action (then again, how much sex can you really show in six seconds?).

As criticisms followed, Twitter sprung into action to stop the proliferation of adult video, and it now appears the risqué clips aren’t an issue anymore. But I found out this new social networking tool has a more glaring problem with or without the porn. Vine is completely devoid of anything worth watching.

Granted, it’s early and users may not have found the most innovative ways to use Vine. But if the first week’s videos are any indication, then get used to a lot of banal clips of cute animals and stop-motion-animated knick-knacks.

Vine was released last week to much fanfare because it takes the Twitter model one step further. The free application, which is available only for the iPhone at this point (Android is coming), is a way to express yourself in video rather than words.

Tied to your phone’s camera, the process of shooting video is simple. After you launch the app, you just point the camera, and press and hold your finger on the phone’s screen for as long as you want to shoot. Take your finger off and it stops filming. You can then change angles and press your finger on the screen again for an instant edit. Once the six seconds are up, you can post your video either to Twitter, Facebook or Vine’s own servers. Viewing videos is even easier. They automatically begin to play whenever you scroll over one.

After recording a video, you can add the location of where you shot it and a brief caption for the clip. Because the video is framed in a box, you can shoot it with your phone in portrait or landscape mode and the aspect ratio is the same. As with Twitter, you can tweet hashtags with the videos so they can be grouped by subject.

Like any other social networking app, Vine has an “Explore” section to discover new videos. An “Editor’s Picks” section displays videos curated by Vine. There’s also a section of the day’s most popular videos, and groups by hashtags such as #travel, #sports, and #food.

The “Editor’s Picks” is where Vine got into trouble over the weekend. One turned out to be a hardcore sex video that Vine executives said was put in the section by “human error.” Not only did that faux pas result in a lot of user complaints, but Apple — which bans any apps that promote pornography — took Vine off its “Editors’ Choice” section in the app store.

Apple has not taken Vine completely out of its store, but some already are wondering if that could happen. In the meantime, Vine staff has taken out any hashtags with sexual terms, and any videos deemed inappropriate are flagged and display a warning before users can play them (Twitter the company doesn’t believe in complete censorship involving its products).

Sure enough, it’s difficult to call up a sexually explicit video anymore, but what remains is Vine’s biggest letdown. Shuffle through scores of videos and mostly you’ll see short, crude clips of salt and pepper shakers or other objects scurrying across a table.

Under #sports, for example, there are more clips of fuzzy animals than of actual sporting events. And then there’s the hilariously over-reaching #howto hashtag, which is supposed to display six-second tutorials on how to do things (including how to smoke weed with a water bong).

The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words doesn’t apply to Vine. With just six seconds, you can’t convey a message or feeling the way you can even with just 140 characters on Twitter.

Despite that, it’s hard to say if Vine will take off. Users are still experimenting with the app and making innocuous videos in the same vein as the first videos on YouTube, which often were just shots of fuzzy kittens drinking from the toilet.

Can Vine and its six-second storytelling become a useful tool for expressing yourself? Frankly, I doubt it.

vince@sltrib.com

Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi