The death of short-form video platform Vine – a wonderful, barely functional and totally unmonetisable comedy playground, may she forever RIP in peace – was the mile marker that ended fun internet and began the era of chore internet.
Each tweet holds the possibility of setting off some new shitstorm of a news cycle, every Facebook post is psychotic bullshit your aunt found on Infowars, a targeted ad engaged in illegal discrimination, or a future drop in an ocean-sized data breach. Email is hell. Your phone is purgatory. And through a distinctly millennial set of rose tined smartglasses, this all used to be starkly different. We all seem to remember a time when online spaces were more like Vine; in folding, we watched the last absurdist dinosaur go extinct just in time for the nihilist hellworld tragicomedy of the Trump presidency to begin.
What a treat, then, that Vine’s co-creator, Dom Hofmann, began teasing a successor service back in December of 2017, aptly called Vine 2. Vine 2 became “Byte” and Byte is now a reality, at least for the 100 people asked to join its closed beta test.
the byte beta we’ve been running with friends and family *feels* exactly like the vine friends and family beta, down to the weird but appealing randomness of the videos. that’ll change as we expand, but it’s a pretty good sign pic.twitter.com/rBbQrNtTJ7
– dom hofmann (@dhof) April 22, 2019
Unfortunately for Hofmann, the successor to Vine isn’t Byte. Increasingly called “Dark Vine,” TikTok is now the defacto short-form looping video platform. Its parent company claimed last year that it has 500 million monthly active users. And although it was once a different service with a different name mostly used for weird looking children to use for lipsync videos, it’s become its own cultural force.
– nutritional yeets (@3liza) January 27, 2019
Yes, watching a compilation of 1,000 high schoolers pantomiming the same godawful clip of a Falling In Reverse song is deeply cursed. (Note: Vine gave us some true winners, like Logan Paul.) But the spiritual continuation of what made Vine so special lives in this skeleton riding a tractor set to “Dragula”, or Kreashawn being used to critique the profiteering that belies philanthropy, or this guy winning the circle game utterly – all of which are found on TikTok, and unlikely to be on Byte when it opens up to the public.
There’s no joy in seeing Hofmann, who’s responsible for bringing so much great, goofy shit to the internet, get utterly rolled by an ascendant platform that rebranded after illegally harvesting data from minors. But by all indications, The Youngs already set up camp in TikTok, and what Byte’s offering just isn’t appreciably different enough to to get them to pack up and move.