Meet Byte ? the new viral social platform built by Vine co-creator, Dom Hofmann
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Before the days of Facebook Live and long before TikTok, there was another app ? an app that inspired 6-second creativity, virality, and notoriety. We called it ?Vine.?
Along with two of his colleagues, Dom Hofmann co-created the uber-popular short-form video-sharing platform.
Vine was acquired by Twitter for $30 million just four months after being founded, but this moved doomed the company before their app even launched, and Hofmann spent the next two years wrestling with Twitter?s management before finally resigning to strike out on his own again. To the dismay of millions of fans, Vine was officially discontinued less than two years later.
After leaving Twitter/Vine, Hofmann made his rounds at various startups, working on numerous projects before finally circling back to his first love. Most recently, he?s spent most of the past two years quietly working on a successor to Vine. It was originally slated for a Spring 2019 release but was delayed and pushed back indefinitely. Some doubted it would ever come to fruition.
But on Friday, January 24th, Hofmann surprised the world with two words. He tweeted ?byte?s out? with a link to the app?s landing page:
And just like that, after years of anticipation, Byte was officially available on both iOS and Android.
So now that we?re all caught up on how we got to today?here?s everything you need to know about Vine?s successor, Byte.
First, What is Byte?
Just minutes before Hofmann?s tweet on Friday afternoon, the official Byte Twitter account tweeted its own announcement:
In short, Byte is a reboot of Hofmann?s original app, Vine (Vine 2.0, one might say), plus a facelift and some cool new features. In fact, the project?s original name was ?V2? but Hofmann eventually settled on ?Byte.? According to the tweet, Byte is ?both familiar and new.? It fills the hole that?s been left in our hearts ever since the day of Vine?s unceremonious shutdown.
As for a slightly more technical answer to ?What is Byte?? ? Byte is a short-form video-sharing social platform. Being from the same creator as Vine, it feels familiar. You can upload and share videos from your camera roll or you can shoot them using the app?s built-in camera function ? the latter option offering a more complete Byte experience.
?Byte? ? that sounds familiar
The name ?Byte? invokes a certain similar image but is not to be confused with ByteDance, the name of the Chinese company behind the current leader in short-form videos, TikTok.
It?s been exactly 7 years
January 24th is an interesting choice to launch this new app. And it?s a familiar date to Hofmann because Vine launched on January 24th, 2013 ? exactly 7 years prior.
?We hope it?ll resonate with people who feel something?s been missing.? ? Byte
Now, to answer your burning questions.
Can I Earn Money on Byte?
The short answer: yes ? in the future ? but not quite yet.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Hofmann stated that Byte will launch a revenue-sharing partner program so creators can get paid for their work once the app introduces advertising. ?We?re looking at all of those, but we?ll be starting with a revenue share + supplementing with our own funds. We?ll have more details about exactly how the pilot program will work soon.?
And in a series of tweets from the official Byte Twitter account, the company says: ?byte celebrates creativity and community, and compensating creators is one important way we can support both.?
Can I Advertise on Byte?
Again, the short answer: yes, but not quite yet.
As mentioned in the TechCrunch interview, Byte is working on developing an advertising program for the platform to connect advertisers with creators, but the first priority is getting the app out into the world, onto your phone, and in the hands of creators who will drive its network effect.
Options for advertisers will likely arrive soon, but in the meantime, why not check out the creator?s side of the platform and try your hand at creating content? Who knows, on this new platform ? where there are no already-established big players ? you just might be fast-tracked to stardom.
How Will Byte Succeed Where Vine Failed?
While no one knows the whole reason behind Vine?s eventual demise, there is plenty of speculation. Amidst that speculation, there are a few potential reasons that stand out: profitability, a lack of new features, and Twitter?s own uncertain future.
Despite its widespread adoption, intense virality, and an enthusiastic fanbase, Vine was never able to find its way to profitability.
Lack of new features
As The Verge stated in a 2016 article, ?while Vine once boasted a commanding lead over other social video apps, it failed to keep pace as competitors added features ? something that ultimately drove its biggest stars away.?
Twitter?s uncertain future
In 2016, amidst a tough year for Twitter as they questioned their own future, difficult decisions had to be made about which programs were going to continue moving forward. In the end, Twitter couldn?t figure out where to put this enormously-popular but resource-intensive and unprofitable app. So they shuttered it.
But the story will be different for Byte. For starters, they?ve already stated their intent to develop an advertising program, which will drive revenue. Alongside that, they?ll be launching a partner program, through which content creators will be compensated ? incentivizing their stars to stay. And they?re launching as an independent company, rather than as part of a larger parent company.
Most importantly, Byte can learn from Vine?s successes and failures. They?ll no doubt use the past to guide their roadmap for the future.
What About TikTok?
No conversation about short-form video these days is complete without mentioning TikTok. So naturally, people will ask, ?Why should we use Byte when we have TikTok??
Two words: national security.
ICYMI, TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese-owned online media company. That said, every person who uses TikTok is effectively offering up endless amounts of facial recognition and location data to the Chinese government. That?s a big reason its use has been banned among U.S. military personnel.
While ByteDance has said that TikTok?s data is not subject to Chinese law, the reality is that it?s owned by a company whose data is subject to those laws. In the U.S., we?ve seen tech companies push back against government requests for user data, but in China, it?s not a request ? it?s a command. And if they truly want that data, there?s no way to keep them from getting it.
The Verge recently shared some insight on this as well: ?A final growing threat to TikTok is what you might call narrative risk ? or, the likelihood that the company won?t be able to overcome shifting public opinion about Chinese-owned apps in America.?
So in other words, Byte is like TikTok, but without the giant national security threat.
National security aside, while they share some similarities, the two platforms definitely offer different appeals. A commenter on the Byte community forums draws a first-hand comparison between the two:
?In my opinion, byte and TikTok are two different things. Byte will be like Vine with videos that have high Vine energy from back in the day because when the app releases, word will catch on, people will be curious and see byte as ANOTHER social media platform like any other and get setup on there. A lot of ex-Viners WILL be promoting byte and checking it out because who wouldn?t. While TikTok does have a few Vine energy videos, it?s all mostly music related.?
Byte possesses a pedigree that other apps don?t ? its creator, Dom Hofmann. He?s already done this once and it was swept up before it even could get going. It will undoubtedly face challenges (e.g. comment spamming), but given the shifting public outlook on its biggest direct competitor, TikTok, January 2020 seems like it was a perfect time to launch.
Overall, it?s an exciting opportunity for content creators, entrepreneurs, marketers, and advertisers alike. Byte is off to the races and I, for one, am curious to see where it goes. And to those who haven?t gotten over Vine?s demise, it?s going to feel like finally coming home.