On Vine

Michael Hoeweler

Twitter’s Michael Sippey talks about the new video-sharing platform and how 140-character messages have transformed communication.

Twitter launched in 2006 with a simple premise—allow users to send 140-character messages via the web or SMS. Since then, the service has reached half a billion registered users, among them Bill Gates and Oprah. In 2013, Twitter launched Vine, a video-sharing platform that signifies the next generation of social media. Here, Michael Sippey, vice president of consumer product, tells us what’s surprising about Vine, how Twitter has evolved and why the best designs are the simplest.

Q: Vine was actually a start-up acquired by Twitter. What made it so appealing?

A: Vine created something so simple and elegant—there’s not even a play or record button—that made video sharing incredibly easy. Its six-second constraint also mimicked Twitter’s character limit.

Q: The Vine app launched in January—what’s struck you about it in the months since?

A: We’re amazed at the cleverness being deployed. Constraints breed creativity, and from celebrities using it to high schoolers sharing their crazy lives to incredible stop-motion-animation videos, it’s been staggering. Even David Lynch is using Vine now.

Q: And of course the video by the Game of Thrones actress that went viral.

A: Wasn’t that awesome? That crystallizes what’s so great about Vine—the actress Maisie Williams is 16, she’s a TV star and she’s using it in a fun, lighthearted and creative way.

Q: Speaking of mobile apps, is the shift toward mobile how Twitter’s going as well?

A: Definitely. Mobile phones up and down the price spectrum have become fantastic content-creation tools and consumption devices, and if you look at Internet trends, that’s where people are moving.

Q: What has that meant for Twitter?

A: The platform is happening much more in real time. It’s where people turn when events occur in the world, not only to find out what’s going on but also to talk about it. It means that Twitter really is the global town square.

Q: Where did the idea for the new Twitter #music service come from?

A: Music is one of Twitter’s most popular topics, so we wanted to help people discover what’s emerging through the data we had. Twitter #music highlights the hottest artists in real time and shows what your friends are listening to.

Q: And musicians have embraced it?

A: Totally. The music business has changed so much that musicians need that connection to fans. The band Muse did a Q&A on Twitter, and it drove them to number one on the #music chart that day.

Q: Where’s Twitter going in the future?

A: We just want to make it simpler. It’s always easy to add another option, but the best thing we can do is streamline.

Twitter and Vine are available as iOS and Android apps.

Fact: Vine got 13 million users in four months; Instagram, 10 million after nearly a year.