Twitter's Vine serves users' inner movie maker

Mobile app makes short, looping videos of no more than 6 seconds

It's no longer just about those 140-character tweets. Now Twitter is helping people discover their inner filmmaker.

Twitter announced Thursday the launch of Vine, a service that lets mobile users capture and share short, looping videos. And it's serious about the videos being short: Each one will last six seconds or less.

"Posts on Vine are about abbreviation -- the shortened form of something larger," wrote Dom Hofmann, co-founder and general manager of Vine, in a blog post. "They're little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They're quirky, and we think that's part of what makes them so special."

Hofmann also said that Twitter has acquired Vine, but financial details were not released.

Vine, which is available for the Apple iPhone and the iPod Touch, is a free download on the App Store. Twitter noted that it's working on making Vine available on other platforms.

Vine users don't need to have a Twitter account, Hofmann said, but signing up is quicker if they do.

"This is a good move for Twitter," said Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner. "We believe for Twitter to become even more integrated into the consumer and business social ecosystem, it's new product initiatives like Vine that will help propel them in this direction. Adding media types, such as video, is a natural extension for Twitter users to consider and adopt."

Video is more popular than ever, given that more consumers now have smartphones with video capability, Blau said, adding that he expects video usage to continue to grow.

Twitter's video launch will present a challenge for companies like Tout.com and Viddy, which both offer apps for taking short videos and posting them on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said he doesn't see Twitter under serious attack from Tout or Viddy, but he said it's smart for Twitter to try to keep users' eyeballs to itself, instead of sharing them with third-party apps.

"I don't think they'll lose users to a video-based service, but why not include enhancements?" said Gottheil. "So it's a nice new feature, but maybe not a game-changer or a business requirement."

Blau, though, said a video app is important for Twitter's continued growth.

"Twitter needs to take care of [itself], and that means a continued horizontal expansion of their platform and features," he added. "We will see more core services from Twitter come out, and we will also see improvements to existing features, including Vine. I would not be surprised to see Vine become a more useful app over time, and that may mean they tread even more over Tout's features."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter, at @sgaudin, and on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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