Vine, a six-second video-hosting service that became an instant haven for DIY comedy, went offline in January 2017. Obituaries were written for the community of weird and funny kids, and diligent archivists were quick to build compilations in honor of Vine’s triumphant impact. Twitter may have killed Vine, but the platform’s spirit survived in the millions of people who pored over their favorite videos.
There was a moment of hope between November 2017 and early May 2018. Dom Hofmann, one of Vine’s co-founders, announced “V2,” a followup to Vine that could potentially launch by the end of 2018. People desperately seeking out new Vine content, having grown bored or accustomed to the same popular six-second video added to every compilation (looking at you, potato that flew around the room), would finally get new material. No one questioned whether the internet needed a modern Vine, if a successor could match the cherished cultural moment that existed for a brief second. None of that mattered. Vine was back.
As a famous philosopher once said, “Vine is dead; long live Vine.”
The dream came crumbling down in May 2018. Hofmann posted an update on V2’s incredibly active, somewhat bizarre forums, confessing he didn’t have enough money to successfully launch Vine’s successor. Hofmann wrote:
When I announced that I was working on a follow-up to Vine, I also (perhaps foolishly) announced that it would be a personal project and personally funded. I underestimated the amount of enthusiasm and attention the announcement would generate. The interest has been extremely encouraging, but it has also created some roadblocks. Taking into account a larger-than-expected audience, we now know that the estimated costs for the first few months alone would be very high, way beyond what can be personally funded.
Hofmann postponed the project indefinitely, apologizing to disappointed Vine fans anxiously waiting V2’s arrival — people like Matthew Checchia and Shae, two popular V2 forum members.
Checchia is an 18-year-old college student who lives just outside Toronto. On his website, he refers to himself as a YouTuber, actor and producer, but his Twitter profile includes one other important piece of information: he’s a V2 expert. “V2 expert” is a strange term, and easy to read as facetious. People aren’t usually experts in products that don’t exist. It’s just not possible. It’s like proclaiming someone is an expert on the iPhone 15 or Xbox 100.
Except that Checchia is a V2 expert, appointed by Hofmann not too long after the V2 forums first launched. Hofmann gave Checchia more administrative powers, including the ability for the two to have private conversations if either Hofmann or Checchia wished. Checchia’s role only became more important as the forums grew from a diehard collective, waiting with bated breath for any update from Hofmann, to 12,000 people looking to connect with other folks who love Vine.
“I was handpicked as one of the experts on the forums, so I felt like Dom’s clearly seen what I’ve done and he trusts me enough to handle all these additional administrative powers on the forum,” Checchia told Polygon via Skype not too long after Hofmann’s announcement about indefinitely pushing back V2. “I haven’t directly spoken with him, but I think between me and him, him and the experts, and him with everyone else on the forums, there’s so much love and so much commitment. There are people who post topics about people treating Dom like a god, and you know everyone’s praying for Dom to release an update. It’s almost like Dom’s a celebrity on the forums and people want to get everything out of him.”
V2’s forums are mystifying. One of the most popular forums is an effort to get people to count to 5,000 by just posting the next number in a thread. Another thread asks for poets to share their poetry, tips and writing prompts to help other aspiring writers out. One long thread encourages people to use two words in their replies to tell a cohesive story about memes.
It’s all incredibly... Vine. But it’s that type of community support and engagement, Checchia said, that makes the V2 forums feel different from other communities he’s seen.
“When I first joined the V2 forums, I wasn’t expecting all that much,” Checchia said. “I was expecting a regular online forum like once a week and maybe the creator Dom would give out his updates maybe every week or so. I wasn’t expecting this huge community to come together and collaborate on the forums. It was mind blowing to me how fast it grew, how large the community became and how active the forum was.”
Like other communities, friendships made on the forums have branched out into other areas. There was concern when Hofmann announced V2’s indefinite postponement that the forums would disappear, too. Those who became close friends looked for ways to keep treasured conversations going without needing to rely on the forums.
“Now they’re having group chats on Twitter and continuing those friendships, and it’s so much more than I think anyone was expecting from a forum for an app that was still in development,” Checchia said.
People like Shae, a V2 forum member who launched a giant Twitter DM group with friends she made. Shae and Checchia share a few similarities: both missed out on Vine’s hype the first time around, both flocked to V2’s community forums the moment the app was announced and both consider V2 one of their most important communities.
“I never had a Vine account and I completely regret that,” Shae told Polygon. “That’s another reason why I was so active on the V2 forum, because I saw the impact Vine made on the internet. When Vine was discontinued you could tell there was a sort of emptiness on your timeline. The internet was a slightly less funny place for me and even to this day short videos are being called Vines and I see throwback vine compilations on a daily even though there is no more Vine.”
Both Shae and Checchia saw V2 as a chance at redemption — an opportunity to be on the ground floor of the next Vine. They didn’t want to miss out on another cultural movement, making promises to themselves to be ready for whatever V2 beta Hofmann would surely release down the road. Checchia told Polygon that if V2 even came close to giving him the same feeling that Vine managed to in its last couple of years, he’d be overjoyed.
“I joined Vine with a couple of friends probably a couple of years after it started, and of course I loved it,” Checchia said. “Immediately after I posted my first Vine, there were people just commenting and following and it super easy to kind of grow. I had a blast on Vine. When I heard about V2, I was like, ‘I have to hop on top of this.’ Because when a new social media platform comes out, it’s so much easier to grow and to really learn the ropes as soon as the app comes out, which is something I wish I had done when Vine first started. If only I knew about it back then. So when V2 was announced, I said, ‘This time is going to be different. I’m going to go and join the forums and give it my all.”
Still, it came as no surprise to anyone on the forum that V2 faced major problems. Shae and Checchia spoke about Hofmann’s updates become less frequent, and pointed to Hofmann slowly removing his own tweets as a sign that something was up. Concerned people on V2’s forums began to ask questions about V2’s fate. By the time Hofmann made his announcement in early May, no one was really caught off guard.
“Learning about the V2 delays was a disappointment but not a surprise,” Checchia said. “We knew something was wrong when updates slowed down and and we rarely heard from Dom but we keep hope alive. We still visit the forums post and chat while we figure out the next move.
“I want to stress that V2 is not dead,” he adds, “this is just a minor setback.”
“A minor setback” is how many V2 community forum members see Hofmann’s announcement. V2 became a silver lining for so many people who were still mourning Vine’s loss. Shae and Checchia described feeling devastated and heartbroken over Vine’s closure frustrated with Twitter’s inability to see Vine for the rare unicorn it was. Though Shae and Checchia were both late to Vine, they didn’t want to see it go away — a feeling that almost everyone online seemed to echo by the time Vine completely shut down.
“When I heard about Vine getting shut down, I was honestly heartbroken,” Checchia said. “It was such a successful app in the short time it existed, and I was obviously upset at Dom and the creators. But when I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture, I didn’t express myself as being expressed as upset as much because Twitter is a company and they’re a business, they’re in it for the money.”
“I didn’t make content but I would definitely watch videos every single day and for it to have been gone, I felt like people took Vine for granted,” Shae added.
It’s a scary time for Vine diehards. They hope V2 comes back, even offering to help Hofmann crowdfund the project, but nothing’s concrete. The only thing people can cling to are V2’s forums where, every once in a while, someone pops in to talk about a new Vine compilation or idea for getting V2 back on the ground.
It’s a community crowdsourcing hope, and it’s working.
“Vine of course had its own spotlight and I don’t know if V2 will recreate that same moment, but it definitely has a high potential to create a moment of its own,” Shae said. “It’s a different time and it will have a completely different impact and while of course it’s only speculation at this point, it could be something that grows into its own moment. Once it takes form as an identity apart from vine or other comparative platforms we’ll be able to see just what it can bring us!”
Vine is dead; long live Vine.