Twitter's Vine seems silly—but who cares?

January 25, 2013: 3:41 PM ET

Only time will tell if people take to Vine, which limits videos to six seconds, the way they have taken to Instagram.

Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 3.40.33 PMFORTUNE -- Twitter CEO Dick Costolo on Wednesday tweeted a Vine video (or just "a Vine" to use the correct parlance), the first fruit of last year's acquisition by the microblogging service of the microvideo app. The video is called "Steak Tartare in Six Seconds," and it depicts exactly that.

Six seconds is the limit on Vine videos -- just like the limit on tweets is 140 characters. What is the usefulness of watching a compressed depiction of someone preparing steak tartare? Absolutely none. Nor is there any entertainment value to it. It's not even vaguely interesting.

The silliness of the enterprise is obvious. Fake Jeff Jarvis, the Twitter persona mocking the real Jeff Jarvis (whose default is to always disparage "old media" and to herald new technologies as world-changing without applying much discernment) has been on a tear making fun of Vine (and Jarvis). "Within 100 years, I predict that Costolo's Vine will be a milestone just like Gutenberg's printing press," Fake Jeff tweeted. (The real Jarvis doesn't seem to have weighed in on Vine so far.)

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But then, Twitter was thought to be pretty silly, too, when it started. And of course it still is in a lot of ways, though it's also proved to be highly useful in many applications: Follow the right people tweeting about the right subjects, and you will be much better-informed than you are now. On the other hand, the character limit has created a lot of annoyances, such as the people who get into Twitter arguments, overwhelming other people's feeds. And even worse, the overtweeters -- the people who tweet hundreds of times per day, perhaps not quite getting that this means they are imposing themselves on their followers. (Luckily, it's easy enough to unfollow and block such people.)

People will no doubt use Vine in annoying ways, too, just as they do with Instagram, the photo-sharing app that Vine is being compared to. It's hard to know whether Vine, like Twitter, will prove itself in ways that nobody can predict at this point. Likely, it will in some applications replace animated GIFs. But even if it doesn't end up having any real utility, that doesn't mean it won't be fun or popular. Hopefully, people will come up with better stuff than some guy making a meal.

The videos loop until you stop them, which makes them resemble GIFs. For now, it's available as an app only on the iOS platform, though an Android version is on the way. It can also be used on Facebook and, soon, other social-media platforms.

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