Is Byte the Successor to the 6-Second Throne?

Vine’s dead, TikTok is surging, and Byte is a new riff on an old idea

With thousands of new app launches every day, why should I or anyone else care about the release of a completely unknown app that lets you create and share six-second videos?

Woman using smartphone with Byte shapes onscreen
 Lifewire / Michela Buttignol

Not many apps, though, have a lineage like Byte. Created by the eponymous, Byte is a vertical video reimagining of the once popular Vine video creation app.

Yes, that Vine, the one Twitter acquired in 2012 and summarily shut down in 2016. There were once people called “Viners,” cadres of avid six-second creators who grew so popular they started making ads for major brands and, sometimes, collected record deals.

Galaxy Watch unboxing
I created a lot of animations like this on the original Vine (Lance Ulanoff).  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Hello Byte

Byte is, in some ways, like Vine V.1. It has just a handful of tools including a Home button where you can consume new Vines, a Search button to discover new feeds, Activity to let you know who’s following and liking your feed, a Profile button to see your own feed, and a Create button.

That last button opens a very Vine-like screen with a switch camera button, “delete the last frame” button, access to your photo and video library if you want to upload content recorded outside of Byte, and a little Ghost button to support onion-skinning for animation. Byte launches with your feed and the ability to like and "Rebyte" videos. The most ground-breaking thing about Byte is that you can now shoot vertical video. The original Vine only supported square video.

'We have a roadmap that we're excited about that builds on what we think works, and short looping videos is sort of the foundation of that.'

This small but important change is a reminder that Byte is part of a new generation of creative apps and that it emerges in the undeniable age of TikTok.

While Vine’s influence is all over TikTok, the latter is a much more assured platform with a monstrous and growing user base and, because it appeals to a fully digital native audience, there’s virtually zero differentiation between creators and consumers. Where Vine usually launched with the creation tools open, basically challenging you to create something cool, TikTok’s home screen is the highly addictive feed, which is driven by a powerful interest-based algorithm that almost psychically feeds you your next favorite TikTok. At its heart, TikTok is more an addiction than a social media platform.

What it Spawned

I’d argue that there would be no TikTok (coincidentally launched by a company called ByteDance—no relation) without Vine. The same kind of antic creativity runs through many TikToker’s veins.

I was one of the Viners, creating roughly 800 Vine videos in five years. After Twitter shut down the platform, I continued using Vine Camera, an app that contained all of Vine’s features, but was no longer supported by a growing community or, really, even Twitter, which eventually pulled the plug on that app, as well.

I had Vine Camera on all my phones until my most recent handset update. When it disappeared, I immediately missed the tools; in particular the onion-skinning animation one that allowed me to make dozens of animated unboxing videos (you can see one above).

Watching the Creator

Byte app
Byte's two main screens. The consumption one on the left and the creator one on the right.  Byte

Over the years I’ve kept tabs on Vine co-founder Dom Hoffman who, after leaving Twitter, launched and briefly had another social platform hit with Peach. That cheeky platform didn’t survive, but Hoffman’s devotion to his original app hit and social media platform never died. Almost three years ago, Hoffman announced that he’d begun work on a new Vine: A.K.A. Vine 2.0.

I was excited, but also keenly aware of why the original Vine ultimately failed. It was essentially a creator’s tool and while people enjoyed consuming Vines, Vine struggled to scale to not just Facebook size, but anything approaching Twitter’s 300M+ user base. I found it hard to imagine what the next Vine could do to “engage” the Instagram Stories generation.

Hoffman stayed below the radar for more than a year before I started to hear some buzz last year about a beta program. I asked Hoffman about it via Twitter DM and while I couldn’t get on the beta list, he told me a small group was testing and delivering feedback on the new app.

Then, last week, Byte dropped on iOS and Android for everyone.

Are You Ready for This

Yes, I downloaded Byte immediately and of course I created a new animation and even one comedy Byte (creating 6-second skits with some of my friends was one of my true joys in life), but I also live in TikTok (and Instagram Stories) now.

Can a “Vine 2.0” even survive in our TikTok world? I put the question to Hoffman via Twitter DM. Did he, I asked “feel pressure, in the face of TikTok, to let people record longer videos and add richer editing tools?”

“Not pressure,” wrote Hoffman, adding, “we have a roadmap that we're excited about that builds on what we think works, and short looping videos is sort of the foundation of that.”

My first Byte! It looks better in the new app. (Lifewire . Lance Ulanoff).  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

We walked through some of the features, including some the original Vine had, that are still missing from Byte. I was looking, in particular, for hands-free recording and selectively removing clips (right now you can only delete the last thing you shot).

Hoffman assured me the company is working on hands-free recording, “Just didn't make it in for launch,” Hoffman explained. Byte is also looking at non-linear editing but wants to avoid falling into a “desktop timeline feel.”

I thought about TikTok’s odd mix of ultra-powerful tools like the ability to time the appearance of text (something both Hoffman and I marveled over) and realized that in order to survive and grow, Byte may have to mimic or outdo many of them.

Hoffman, for now, is focused on making Vine 2.0…er, sorry… Byte, the best possible short-form video creation and consumption platform.

“As someone who really enjoys making Bytes, I'd like to see us add more editing tools, and we're experimenting with a few, but we're trying to take care with the tools that we add and make sure they're not too prescriptive,” wrote Hoffman.

So What

These social sharing tools often turn into powerful communication and storytelling platforms. The best of them, like Twitter, TikTok, Instagram Stories, and Vine, become a sort of cultural shorthand, where their style of communication bleeds into other media and experiences. Best to familiarize yourself with Byte now, before you start wondering why everyone is again crafting 6-second tales.

For now, Byte is still just a wonderful exercise in nostalgia that has the potential to become something much, much more. It’s already growing quickly and, if you want to get ahead of the curve, you might want to check it out, or at least like a few of my Bytes.