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The Ultimate Face off: Vine or TikTok?

Lizzie Harvey and Amelia Wood go head to head to determine which video platform is really better, TikTok or Vine?

Forever in Our Hearts, The Legacy of Vine by Lizzie Harvey

Like it or not, Vine’s legacy is undeniable. Despite shutting down in 2016, its online cultural impact has been huge and is often seen as the golden standard by which to judge new video-sharing platforms. Its premise was simple: videos that only lasted 6.5 seconds. Unlike on other forms of social media, Vine was condensed, resulting in short, sweet, and experimental videos. It was just long enough to get your punchline in, but short enough to keep people’s attention in this hyperactive digital age. This brevity is also, in my opinion, the reason why Vine is so quotable.

The short, looping clips were easy to remember and the absurdist, innovative comedy of many famous Vines meant they were widely shared. In this way, viral Vines were often ‘one-hit wonders,’ in contrast to the trends that seem to dominate TikTok, perhaps as a result of its past, as well as its predecessor Musical.ly, that capitalised off ‘borrowing’ or recycling other people’s content. When success on TikTok seems to be driven by how well someone can capitalise off trends or how attractive they are, it is difficult to see how their videos will enter into popular culture in quite the same way that Vines did.

While Viners could become infamous through the videos they made for fun, TikTok stars, most of whom are teenagers, seek to find fame and fortune. Whether this is something that young people should be aspiring to is debatable. Yes, this is a simplification. Viners like Curtis Lepore, Nash Grier, and Lele Pons were unfunny at best and highly problematic at worst, but others such as Drew Gooden, Shawn Mendes, and Rudy Mancuso used the platform to make some genuinely funny and impressive content and used their popularity gained on Vine to launch successful careers.

Vine’s demise was largely the result of the platform’s inability to make a profit and complete against the likes of Instagram and YouTube. TikTok has no such problems and is often jokingly lauded as ‘gentrified Vine.’ The app has become such a commercial hit that its adverts can now be found on mainstream TV as well as online. While commercialisation isn’t necessarily awful, it does become more nefarious when accusations that their algorithm hides unconventionally attractive people and reinforces social bias by recommending people who look like the user. Similarly to Instagram, many TikTok users present an idealised self, harming young and impressionable users. Added to this are its questionable terms of service, taking ownership of all videos posted on the app, as Viner-turned-YouTuber Cody Ko discovered when his videos mocking the platform were used as ads without his permission. TikTok, put simply, is worrying in ways Vine never was.

It is true that TikTok is bigger than Vine; it currently has four times as many users, with an astounding 800 million active users across the globe. But numbers do not necessarily translate into good content or a lasting legacy. Myspace, for example, had over 1 billion users registered, and yet has faded into Internet obscurity, so the future of TikTok is by no means certain. On the other hand, perhaps rather paradoxically, the untimely demise of Vine solidified its legacy; instead of fizzling out or becoming overly commercialised, Vine being shut down led to a flurry of vine compilations, helping to canonise almost the key set of ‘iconic’ vines which the app is remembered by, rather than by its slightly darker side. This is Vine’s legacy: the best, as decided by the fans. Vine is dead. Long live Vine.

TikTok: The Next Great Roller Coaster of Youth by Amelia Wood

It is definitely a bit embarrassing to admit that I love Tiktok. I know it. You know it. When I told my friends that I was writing this piece, there was a tinge of disgust in the messages I received back. Sure. some of them may peruse the app from time to time, but it’s almost in an ironic way, like they’re always ready to defend themselves by saying “don’t worry, I don’t really like it.”

Many of us have fond memories of Vine. It was that rare gem of zany internet culture that penetrated fully through to everyone our age. I have especially sacred (read: damaging) recollections of the year ten Christmas show at school. One of my friends banged pots and pans together while screaming at the top of her lungs the lines from the vine “I don’t get no sleep cos of y’all, y’all never gonna sleep cos of me!” and then promptly falling off the stage.

The six second limit made Vine fast and electric. Creators had to be imaginative about how they could make the most of the time available. Vines either worked or they didn’t. If they didn’t succeed, it wasn’t a problem, because you were already watching the next one. When they did work though, it could be some of the funniest content on the internet. They achieved a unique sort of humour that was difficult to find or replicate elsewhere. I was sad when Vine was shut down and surprised when nothing else quickly sprung up to fill the void. But now something has.

In the past two years, Tiktok has exploded in popularity. It differs in some ways from its predecessor: the six second cap has been lengthened to a full minute and it usually incorporates a song or filter into the video. Regardless, for me it has been the only thing to recreate that same storm in a teacup energy that vine had cultivated so wonderfully. That is not to say I have no issues with Tiktok. The time limit could be shortened by 20 seconds or so and some of videos can be quite cringy.

A big point made by many arguing against the app is that it is owned by a Chinese company. It has been accused of skimming user data and manipulating the algorithm against certain kinds of content among other things. Frankly, I’m unqualified to dispute any of these claims, even if I wished to. For my part, the feed I receive on the app is diverse and wide-ranging; gay Tiktok is huge and social issues are often the subject of the videos.

On security, I suppose the concerns about Tiktok reflect society’s wider cold war-esque suspicion with China at the moment. I would only point out that it is no good putting down Chinese creations if we can’t come up with anything better. Tiktok sprang up because Vine was shut down by its American owners after all.

Getting older is strange. I’m sure that by this point in our lives, we have all experienced that chilling feeling that arises out of the realisation that we no longer understand what the ‘young people’ are up to, be it Tiktok or fidget spinners or Fortnite. By university, we have detached ourselves from the collective unity that comes from being the ‘young people’. It is sad in a way and I think it’s why we can be reluctant to acknowledge the successors to the things we loved. It is why my friends were horrified at the notion I could even suggest Tiktok could supplant Vine. Vine was targeted at us and Tiktok was not. I also think it is part of why I like Tiktok so much. Just for now, I would like to hold on that feeling of being in the know and that I haven’t grown up and moved on. Being a teenager was a roller coaster, and I’m not quite ready to get off.

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