Loss in the digital age

Twitter confirmed tonight that its subsidiary video app service Vine will be shut down in the coming months, with the company’s struggles in maintaining revenues and growing its main platform perhaps being at fault for axing what’s become a diminishing service.

Vine may not be one of the internet’s biggest services, but what it did in its brief existence was popularise the shortest-form of content sharing – with its trademark six-second video length paving the way for the likes of Snapchat which has exploded in growth in recent years.

But while Vine’s integration with Twitter meant that the two services often felt one-and-the-same, especially now that Twitter allows you to post self-captured video and even live-stream through its newer Periscope app, it is perhaps the first mark of this stage of the internet drawing to an end.

We’ve seen internet staples die off in the past – think Napster, Geocities, Bebo, MySpace etc., but Vine is the first of the new massively viral and niche sites to really go out of business.

Vine’s unique selling point of short videos made it almost a craft unto itself.  Getting your point across – whether it was a joke, a story, a news bulletin or whatever else you could span into six seconds – was difficult, and making the most out of your brief video was crucial.

 

Vine’s fate has not been completely sealed yet, but what is at risk is the thousands and millions of posts that have been created by users across the world.  That collective effort, the collective response to that effort and the medium of choice of some people might end up being lost forever.

It’s this sad truth of the internet that means that while it’s possible to preserve something forever, it’s also possible to lose everything in the blink of an eye.

With the internet your content is rarely hosted by you, but by the networks you choose to share with – be it Vine, Facebook, Twitter or WordPress blogs.  If something catastrophic were to happen to them all would be lost.

The internet’s fragmentation means that recovering some of the fragments of a forgotten network is possible.  Vines (usually in compilations) will live on through YouTube or other video-hosting sites, and this post is built on the premise that hasn’t been confirmed yet that the content will actually be wiped when Vine goes down.

But while this fragmentation will suit some users, it won’t for everyone.  There will be memories lost, there will be time spent that can’t be recovered.  It’s this that truly represents the loss created by a site like Vine’s demise.

 

What’s important then is to always remember that even the internet is fleeting, and to cherish and save whatever you can in your own way to make sure it lasts.

For me this brings to mind the digital efforts to preserve Gaelic culture, like Tobair an Dualchais or DASG (Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic) – they’re fantastic repositories of centuries worth of material, which are vital to maintain the knowledge of what Gaelic was and what it could be.  But without the people, the money and the interest in doing that then it could be lost on the internet just in the way physical materials are.

 

The internet is a technological super-highway that means we can save information and entertainment for decades and generations to come.  But that’s only if the guardians of that material are able to – so it’s worth remembering that if a brand as big as Vine can come down then little is safe from the loss of the digital age.

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