YouTube has no peers.
They seemingly do it all (hosting, content fingerprinting, advertising, search, analytics, subscriptions, live, video editing…) at such scale that it’s impossible for a human to process. In 8 years the brilliant folks at Google have created a useful and credible alternative to television for a generation that’s thirsty for bite-sized, on demand, two-way content. And now, YouTube has more platform lockin that all the popular social networks combined.
I’ve asked myself many times over the past two years if anybody can compete with them. Hell, I’ve even tried.
And I finally have the answer.
YouTube’s biggest strategic weakness is in mobile. And that’s exactly where they’re slipping.
So it comes as no surprise that a worthy competitor, dressed in green, is moving in to exploit this weakness: Vine.
The first generation of mobile video tools (Socialcam, Viddy and Klip) solved what I call “foundational problems” — the technology and user experience behind video uploading, creating efficient sharing flows and hacking viral loops. They all came very close. But in the world of scalable Internet products “close” means nothing. Just ask MySpace, Xanga and Formspring.
Despite how “close” these players arguably got to solving mobile video, they all missed two critical elements Vine got right:
1. Embracing Twitter’s massive distribution muscle and building directly on top of the beloved network (clearly made easier by Twitter’s acquisition, but this was part of the reason why the deal made so much strategic sense)
2. A UX that elegantly grafted onto the dominant user behavior of the social world: foraging. People want immediate delight from discovering new —atomized — content. They figured out the flows to make sharing video fun. And even more critical, they made the consumption UX actually enjoyable because we all know most user generated video is an absolute bore.
YouTube should be concerned. Vine is literally taking over America. It’s growing faster than SnapChat which is growing faster than Instagram. International growth isn’t far behind. The celebrities are joining in droves.
Twitter’s pulled off something extraordinary here. They’ve grabbed the first seat on the rocketship that will be the mobile video revolution.
Don’t dismiss Vine’s six second consumption experience. That can — and will — change. Mobile hardware, cameras, storage, and bandwidth improvements will impact Vibe as well. Even given Twitter’s minimalistic tendencies, we’ve seen the 140-character product morph into something akin to a real-time media center with Twitter Cards.
Since 2006, it was once almost a rule of law that YouTube was the single greatest acquisition in the history of video.
Those days are over. And those steak knives now go up the road to the Twitter corp dev team.
You can follow me on Vine at @BrianNorgard. On Twitter @BrianNorgard.
Special thanks to Scott Hurff for editing help. Get his new book on product development here.