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Vine vs. Instagram Video: A Short Video Showdown

Vine is a new video-sharing app that lets you record short six-second videos on your smartphone and share them with friends; it amassed 13 million users in its first six months of operation. In response, Instagram launched its own short-video service, Video on Instagram, with sharable 15-second videos. In this article, Michael Miller, author of Sams Teach Yourself Vine in 10 Minutes, compares Vine with Video on Instagram - and with MixBit, and even newer video sharing app.
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If you have a smartphone or tablet, you know you can use the built-in camera to shoot videos as well as still photos. Well, guess what, you can also post and share those videos socially, via two new video-sharing apps. Vine and Video on Instagram let you shoot short (six- or fifteen-second) videos and share them instantly with your online followers, or on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’ve never used either of these two apps, you might be wondering just what kinds of videos you can create in just six seconds. You’d be surprised. Not only do these apps make it easy to shoot and share videos, they also inspire tremendous amounts of creativity. It’s as if the short time limits inspire users to be much imaginative than they would be otherwise.

Why So Short?

Even in today’s short attention span society, a six-second video seems incredibly short. Too short, maybe, to hold much if any useful content.

Take a virtual stroll around Vine or Instagram, however, and you’ll see otherwise. Vine, especially, is filled with some of the most creative videos imaginable, including some amazing stop-motion animation. The best Vinesters have mastered the ability to cram four or more short (one second so so) shots into a single video to tell a story, express a mood, or just show what’s going on at the moment. When you put your mind to it, there’s actually quite a lot you can do in six seconds – let alone the comparatively roomy fifteen seconds you have with Instagram. As Vine puts it, these videos let you “share life in motion.”

Why did these services decide on such short video lengths? I can’t speak for the reasons for these exact lengths, but the concept of sharing a (very) short video is similar to that of sharing still photos on Instagram and Snapchat. With a six- or fifteen-second video, you can easily capture the immediacy of the moment, without having to worry over editing the video or choosing which shots to use. Just shoot and share, that’s it – simple and effective.

The short video length also makes for efficient uploading and downloading. Unlike uploading a longer video to YouTube, which can take several minutes, uploading a six-second Vine is almost instantaneous. So, for that matter, is watching one of these short videos. There’s no wait or lag time for the video to load; you just go to the video and it starts playing. Immediate satisfaction.

What you get with Vine and Instagram, then, is the ability to share via video in almost real time, and immediate gratification in terms of viewing videos. They’re also ideal services for the attention span deprived; there’s absolutely no way to get bored in six seconds. (Fifteen seconds, however, can seem like an eternity…)


Vine was the first of these short video-sharing services. The company itself was founded in June 2012, but acquired by Twitter in October 2012 (for approximately $30 million!). The Vine service (and initial iOS mobile app) launched publicly on January 24, 2013.

Vine has become immensely popular during its short time on the market, especially among younger users. Just three months after its release, the Vine app became the number-one free app in Apple’s United States App Store, and is used on 8 percent of all iOS devices – more than double any other video app. In its first six months on the market, Vine’s user base grew to more than 13 million users. These users upload more than 2,000 new videos every hour.

As noted, Vine videos (called vines, with a lowercase “v”) can be up to six seconds long. The videos play back instantly when accessed, no need to click or press a “play” button. And the videos are continuously looping, so they start up again as soon as they end. The result is a short video loop, not unlike an old-fashioned animated GIF.

You shoot a Vine by launching the Vine app on your mobile device and tapping and holding the touchscreen display. Press the screen to start recording; lift your finger to stop. You can record any number of different shots in a single vine, or just do one single six-second shot.

Figure 1 Shooting a six-second video with the Vine app

This leads to a surprisingly large number of videos created using stop-motion animation techniques. Stop-motion videos are actually easy to shoot with the Vine app; just tap the screen lightly to shoot a microsecond of video. Keep tapping the screen as you move objects around the frame, and before you know it you have a six-second animated production. And, if you plan it right, the last shot of your video leads directly back to the first shot, for a perfect loop.

Of course, each vine you shoot can (and should) be accompanied by a short text description. Vine uses Twitter-like hashtags in its descriptions to help people tie into and search for popular topics.

Vine is very much a social network, using these short videos. The vines you shoot are automatically shared with your followers on the Vine service, and you can “revine” those videos you find interesting. Vines can also be shared via Twitter and Facebook, or embedded in web pages and blog posts. The Vine app is available for both iOS and Android devices.

Video on Instagram

Not to be outdone, Instagram recently added video capabilities to its formerly still photo-only service. Now when you launch the Instagram app on your mobile device, you have the option of shooting either a still photo or video. Uploading the videos you shoot is just as easy as uploading photos to Instagram; the videos are just as easily shared socially.

On the surface, then, Video on Instagram is very similar to Vine. You shoot the video by tapping and holding your phone’s touchscreen, and you can include multiple shots in a single video. When you’re done shooting you add a brief text description, including hashtags, and then upload and share the video to your Instagram followers – or via Twitter or Facebook.

Figure 2 Shooting a short video from the Instagram app

The big difference between Instagram and Vine videos is length – fifteen seconds versus six. You might think that a few seconds one way or the other wouldn’t be that big a deal, but it really is; Instagram videos tend to be a little slower paced, with more room to present the subject or just allow things to breathe a little. I also find a little less creativity on the Instagram side, as if creativity is inversely proportional to time available.

Another important difference between the two apps is that Instagram lets you upload existing videos from your phone’s media library. You can trim existing clips to fit within the fifteen-second timeframe, as well as crop widescreen videos to fit Instagram’s square aspect ratio. Since Vine doesn’t have any upload capability, this is a big advantage for Instagram.

Instagram videos also offer the same types of photo filters that you get when shooting still pictures with the app. This can inspire some visual creativity – although, to be honest, Instagram’s photo filters are getting a little old by now. (I mean, how many photos and videos can you view that look as if they’re shot on old 1960’s era Polaroid or Super 8 cameras?)

All that said, Video on Instagram is a winning combination. When it was launched on June 20, 2013, Instagram’s videos were immediately available to all of the service’s 130 million current users. These users took to the video-sharing thing, uploading more than five million videos in the service’s first 24 hours. That’s not a small thing, and there’s evidence that Video on Instagram has taken some of the wind out of Vine’s sails.


This short video-sharing thing must have some appeal, because there’s a new third competitor in the space. On August 8, 2013, YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen launched MixBit, an app that lets you shoot videos up to 16 seconds in length.

While that short video length makes MixBit look similar to Vine and Instagram, it’s really quite a different service. Unlike the other two player, MixBit enables users to edit together multiple short videos (mixing the “bits,” as it were) into videos up to an hour long. You can even include videos you’ve previously shot, or video clips available for mixing from the MixBit service.

Figure 3 Mixing together video clips with the MixBit app

Because of the editing capability and much longer video size, it’s difficult to think of MixBit in quite the same way as Vine or Instagram. Where the two older services embrace the “shoot and share” mentality, MixBit adds a third component – shoot, mix, and share. That mixing, plus the capability for hour-long videos, makes MixBit quite a different beast.

Comparing Vine, Instagram, and MixBit

How do the three major short video-sharing services compare? And which should you use?

The following table makes the comparisons:



Video on Instagram


Video length (max)

6 seconds

15 seconds

16 seconds per clip; 1 hour total video length

Import previously-recorded clips




Delete last recorded clip




Rearrange and delete clips on timeline




Creative filters


Yes (13)


Automatic looping on playback




Sharing with Twitter and Facebook




You might look at these specs and say that Vine is the least of the three services. That isn’t the way it plays out, however. In reality, Vine’s simplicity is what’s appealing. Not only does Vine’s six-second time limit inspire creativity and efficient storytelling, the lack of unnecessary features makes it a much easier app to use. And, in terms of viewing, it’s a lot easier to sit through a six-second video than it is a fifteen-second one. (Don’t even get me started about MixBit’s one-hour videos – like I said, it doesn’t really play in the same space.)

Vine also inspires much more creativity than what you currently find on Instagram. (MixBit is almost too new to determine exactly how it will be used.) The six-second limitation forces people to be a lot smarter about what they shoot; in comparison, some people have trouble filling Instagram’s fifteen-second length with relevant content.

All that said, I expect Vine to add more features over time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of rudimentary editing added to the Vine app; photo filters are also likely additions. Still and all, Vine’s six-second videos are wonders in minimalist presentation, and must be seen to be believed.

Personally, I think these three apps serve much different purposes, and have much different appeals to users. Vine is all about immediacy and creativity, and you can’t find a similar app that’s easier to use. Video on Instagram has obvious appeal to the 130 million people who currently use Instagram to share digital photos, and some of those folks are going to appreciate the breathing room afforded by the extra recording time. MixBit is the oddball of the bunch, as it’s quickly sorting out as not really playing in the short video space; instead, most users are using the app to create longer-form videos, and to play around with mixes of other people’s video clips.

Bottom line, it’s worth your while to check out all three apps (all three free, of course). You might find something to like about each of them!

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