Q&A with Rus Yusupov, co-founder of Twitter's Vine, on the 6-second sweet spot

TORONTO – Just as Twitter proved it’s possible to get a clear point across in a taut 140 characters, Vine users are demonstrating that six seconds is plenty of time to craft a compelling video.

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the video sharing app Vine, which was acquired by Twitter in October 2012, a few months before the startup company officially launched to the world.

Its six-second limit prompted plenty of eye-rolling when it was first released and critics questioned how users could possibly make anything of real quality with such a short span of time.

But 40 million users later, the skeptics have been silenced as some of the more original Vine users continue to cram amazing bits of creativity into half a dozen seconds.

Canadian “MADtv” alumni Will Sasso has amassed 1.7 million followers — although he hasn’t posted in a few months — for his six-second spurts of comedy, including a series of Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions. The second biggest Canadian on Vine is Toronto native Christian DelGrosso, who has parlayed his youth-targeted slice-of-life skits into a following of 1.6 million users. He’s added more than a million followers since the fall. American Brittany Furlan holds the Vine crown for most followers, with more than 4.7 million.

Vine co-creator Rus Yusupov spoke with The Canadian Press about the app’s first year, competing with Facebook’s Instagram, and deciding on the six-second limit.

CP: How did six seconds become Vine’s 140 characters?

Yusupov: “Like Twitter and tweets, we feel that brevity really inspires people to be creative and it lowers inhibitions to be creative, so we knew we needed a time limit. It’s helped us solve some problems with video, such as upload and download speeds. We spent quite a while, a couple of months actually, trying a bunch of different time limits as we were building Vine. We tested various lengths, mostly ranging from four seconds to 10 seconds, but also as low as one second and even unlimited length. We found that six seconds was the ideal length.”

CP: Did you foresee Vine being used as creatively as it has by comedians, or did you envision it as more of a distribution platform for short-form blogging or for sharing videos of your kids or pets?

Yusupov: “We wanted video creation and discovery to be easy and fun, of course we had these goals, but we didn’t know what to expect, we had no idea that people would use it in the way that they are and every day we’re blown away by the creativity, the comedy and major events we see captured on Vine … When you open up Vine now, you’re immediately hit with full-blown narratives and people pushing the boundaries of what’s possible within these constraints.”

CP: What kind of content most surprised you when it first emerged on Vine?

Yusupov: “One thing I find particularly interesting and unique to Vine is how certain users are creating short-form episodic content, they’re telling stories over the course of a long period of time through these short videos and every time I open Vine I get a new episode or short video as part of a larger narrative.”

CP: What was your reaction when Instagram launched a video service a few months after Vine’s, with a longer 15-second time limit?

Yusupov: “We don’t really think about (Instagram) to be honest. With Vine, people can now shoot and upload and share videos really easily and what we’re focused on is making all that easier, we want to provide a really great user experience so people can discover great videos…. There’s a lot we still want to do and will do and we’re focused on that work, we’re not looking in the side or rear view mirror, we’re focused on the road that’s ahead for us.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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