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Instagram, Vine, and the battle for your attention
The burgeoning new short-video-clip sector has become a real battleground. Who has the advantage?

Thursday night, several hours after Instagram founder Kevin Systrom delivered a droll keynote to reveal his sharing service's new video feature, a telling hashtag was floating around Twitter: #RIPVine.

You can see why. Video on Instagram seems to allow users to do a lot of the things you can't do on Vine. It gives you 15 seconds instead of Vine's six; you can lightly edit whatever you film, deleting chunks of footage at a time; a wide array of quirky filters are at your disposal; and, at least in my experience, the videos themselves are integrated seamlessly into Instagram's photostream, which 130 million people already use.

Video on Instagram offers an attractive set of tools intended to stir the inner-artist fantasies trapped inside of anyone who's ever taken a high school art class. "It's our collective belief that the world is better off captured and shared more permanently," said Systrom. "That's what Instagram is."

Instagram's goal, then, isn't necessarily to appeal to creators; rather, it's to make everyone believe that their creations are worthy of sharing.

Some critics aren't fond of Instagram's new features, arguing that video upsets the community's easy-going environment. Video "makes sense for Facebook, and for Twitter," said GigaOm's Mathew Ingram, "but it doesn't make sense for me, and I would suspect a large number of other users." Video, after all, "is very difficult to scan or browse quickly, which is something I (and I'm assuming other users) like to do with photos and other types of content."

The business rationales for Twitter (which owns Vine) and Facebook (which owns Instagram) are straightforward: Both services are looking for glitzy new ways to showcase their platforms to advertisers. As Christopher Mims at Quartz has noted, it's hardly a coincidence that Instagram's maximum allotted video time — 15 seconds — is exactly the same length as many television commercials.

But that won't necessarily be a turnoff for users. Within hours of Instagram announcing the new feature, several of my friends had already taken advantage of this new video service, to good effect. There was a seven-second clip of a friend's 1-year-old daughter playing with her food; footage of a quick stroll through a Los Angeles art museum; and — on more than one occasion — a short video of a cat doing something cat-like. (Naturally.)

Yes, the bold arrival of videos on Instagram would appear to signal the death knell for Vine, which — outside of a few die-hard users like the rapper Riff Raff, or Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and his Vine selfies — doesn't see nearly as much content uploaded to it every day. Making videos — and videos alone — isn't as easy as tapping a shutter.

And yet, Vine may still find a way to prosper. "Why can't both Instagram 15-second, non-looping videos, and Vine 6-second, looping videos work?" asked social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck. "I think both win… Some people are good at status updates on Facebook and not on Twitter, and vice versa."

People go where their friends are. It's why for all of Vine's shortcomings, the service itself will be just fine.

As Paul Ford once wrote in a brilliant New York essay, "I don't think people love Twitter or Facebook in the same way they might love Parks and Recreation or Twilight. Rather, we like the beer and tolerate the bottle."

Indeed, for evidence that Vine will endure, all we need to do is peek into the very medium where its death was declared in the first place:

Remember: Any new medium — no matter how big a splash it makes — is only as good as the users behind it.

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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