The Rise and Fall of the Vine Empire

Julia Collins
5 min readMay 15, 2021


Photo by mikoto.raw from Pexels

The concept of shortness is as relative as time is. Six seconds may seem awfully quick to some, but in the right context, it can launch a Billboard-charting career, create an internet megastar or grant a starring role on a Disney Channel show (Wagmeister, 2016). Folks who were on the beloved app Vine during its short life between 2012 and 2016 know the power six seconds can hold (Newton, 2016). The social media app, created by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, allowed users to create six second videos that each played in a loop. At its peak, Vine had over 200 million active users (Newton, 2016). The app was terminated in 2016 by its parent company, Twitter, due to the lack of money the app was making. The shortness of the app’s lifespan and the videos it hosted stand in stark contrast to the long-standing impact it’s had on digital history.

The “youthful user base” of Vine (28% of users were between 18–24) (Hoelzel, 2015), allowed a myriad of inside internet jokes to ensue. Generation Z and millennials have cultivated a camaraderie on the internet that created the perfect environment for Vine jokes to be passed around in casual conversation (Herrman, 2020). If you weren’t on the app at the time, that was no problem. You could simply look up a “Vine Compilation” video on YouTube and familiarize yourself with the many references (many of those compilation videos have tens of millions of views). Jokes like, “Hurricane Katrina? More like Hurricane tortilla,” and “Stop, I could’ve dropped my croissant,” could be thrown around in social media comments, in-person conversation and even in other videos. Simply starting a sentence that happened to be the first part of a Vine reference could result in a Vine user finishing that sentence with the rest of the popular Vine. For instance, you could say, “So I’m sitting there,” and a person fluent in Vine references would say, “barbecue sauce on my titties.” Vine references are still passed around today — with a more wistful and nostalgic tone to the days when Vine was around.

The way Vine was formatted, along with its primary user base, allowed for a plethora of references, like the ones aforementioned, to be made every day. That culture of referencing made a significant impact on digital history. Obviously, references have always been a trope in pop culture (see: Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club or Harry Potter) but the 200 million people on the Vine app took referencing to a new level. It can be argued that the Vine references folks were (and are still) making were the blueprint for TikTok references. Tiktok, started in 2016 (Tidy & Galer, 2016), has the same vertical video format that Vine did, but with a very different type of success. TikTok videos can be up to one minute long (though they’re currently experimenting with a three minute long feature). Currently, over 689 million people use TikTok. And with that many folks using the app, references haven’t gone anywhere. In fact, TikTok references may even be used more in everyday jargon than Vine references were. Because of the sheer amount of content on TikTok, along with its user-specific algorithm, the TikTok references people make are more niche than Vine references were. With Vine, when a video went viral on the app, it was highly likely that most users saw it. With TikTok, that’s not the case. Even so, references to memorable short-form vertical content videos started with Vine and are continuing with TikTok.

Aside from the referencing, Vine was responsible for launching the careers of many celebrities (both internet and not). Arguably, the most notable person who got their start on Vine is singer Shawn Mendes. Making $54.4 million in 2020 (Forbes, 2020), six number one hits and four concert tours, Mendes has Vine to thank for launching his career (Aswad, 2014). He was 15 years old and posting singing videos on the app. Some of those videos went viral, and that got him recognized by Island Records where he signed in 2014. Vine also provided the platform for making Cody Ko a multi-hyphenate internet sensation (Brown, 2020). He posted comedy videos on Vine, and when it died he pivoted to creating YouTube, Instagram and, eventually, TikTok content. Ko also has a starring role on the comedy television show on Facebook Watch called “The Real Bros of Simi Valley” alongside other popular comedy creators. Ko also has branched out into music as part of the duo Tiny Meat Gang with friend and internet celebrity Noel Miller, who also got his start on Vine. Also, in February, Ko and Miller spoke over Zoom at the University of Florida which I had the pleasure of attending. Other notable celebrities who can attribute the start of their popularity to Vine include David Dobrik, Jake and Logan Paul, Sarah Schauer and Cameron Dallas (Elizabeth, 2016).

Vine’s short life made a large impact on digital history; one that we have not seen the long-term effects of yet. But I chose Vine as a case study for three reasons: one, the impact of Generation Z and millennials on popular culture often stems from social media, which Vine had a large impact on, two, I have seen and used Vine references numerous times in my life and I find the culture and impact of referencing fascinating, and three, Vine launched many types of careers in different fields including music, television and comedy which is a thought paper in itself. Overall, Vine embodies the phrase “gone but never forgotten” quite literally. Its impact on digital history is embedded in the DNA of social media culture.


Aswad, J. (2014, July 21). How Shawn Mendes Is Turning Vine Fame Into a Music Career. Billboard.

Brown, A. (2020, October 30). The Many, Many Lives Of Cody Ko, One Of The Internet’s Original Stars. Forbes.

Elizabeth, D. (2017, May 26). 23 Stars Who Started on Vine, From Shawn Mendes to Jay Versace. Teen Vogue.

Forbes. (2020). Shawn Mendes.

Galer, S. S. T. J. B. (2020, August 5). TikTok: The story of a social media giant. BBC News.

Herrman, J. (2020, February 24). Vine Changed the Internet Forever. How Much Does the Internet Miss It? The New York Times.

Hoelzel, M. (2016, March 30). SOCIAL NETWORK DEMOGRAPHICS: Here’s who’s on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other top social networks now. Business Insider.

Newton, C. (2016, October 28). Why Vine died. The Verge.

Wagmeister, E. (2016, March 9). Vine Star Jake Paul Cast in Disney Channel Series ‘Bizaardvark’ (EXCLUSIVE). Variety.



Julia Collins

I’m a masters student at the University of Florida studying mass communication with a focus in journalism. Check out more at