So a surprisingly large story over the weekend was the fact that low and behold, Vine, had become a portal for 6 second porn films.
More specifically somebody searched #porn on the Vine app and discovered something dirty, if not a bit obvious. Within hours of the story breaking on local news outlets all over the country, Vine shut down their hashtag search while it cleaned up its newly tarnished name.
And meanwhile tech news sites and commentators took a different angle on the story, Apple has a porn problem.
This story seems to stem from another thread from earlier in the week. Apple had shut down an App called 500px for its pornographic content. While 500px was a legitimate photo sharing service, used by upwards of 1.5 million people, it highlighted an interesting and, some would say, troubling aspect of the App Store. Apple has the ability to shut down any app which it interprets as violating its own policies.
Since the App Store and iOS are properties of Apple they are the judge, jury and executioner of the App Store, unlike something open like say, the Actual Internet. On the Actual Internet porn is rampant and easy to find as are almost anything your mind can fathom (see Chappelle Show skit where the internet is a real place). But today, the internet is becoming an increasingly mobile dominated medium. And because of this, iOS has become just as important to accessing internet content as Chrome, Firefox, or any major browser. Only browsers typically don’t sensor you and Apple does.
The point, I think, tech sites were making is that, since Apple shut down one service while not shutting down another which could also violate their terms, they were being uneven, heavy handed and too involved in a free market. And this is an argument that has been made since the App Store was introduced and Apple blocked flash from its browser. They definitely want to curate your experience. In much the same way that we might go to a mall for its easy, centralized and safe (Ontario Mills Mall excluded) experience over say, a store somewhere that specializes in one thing on some street somewhere, Apple understands that people will give up choice, when presented with easy shopping experiences. That’s why iTunes, Pandora, Netflix, XBox 360, Cable TV and Walmart exist.
And guess what; only one of those has porn. It lasts longer than 6 seconds, you have to pay for it and your parents learned how to block it right around the time you learned how to find it.
Apparently, parents have a porn problem too.
Ultimately the commotion about porn and the internet comes from a good place. Anybody who loves and understands free speech knows that you have to defend things like porn in order to defend things like say, a tech news site. And from that angle, I agree to some degree that the internet really is a better thing when it is open because freedom of speech is a good thing.
But just like the signs in restaurants that say “We have the right to refuse service to anybody” private business doesn’t play by the same rules.
And my feeling is, that in some way, business is better for it. If I went a restaurant and there were crust punks walking around barefoot, I probably wouldn’t want to eat there again. Not because I think dirty people should be thrown in jail, but because, I’m spending my money on an experience and frankly people’s dirty feet are not part of it. So Apple is determining when and where we see dirty feet while having a browser in Safari which still lets you have access to all the dirty feet you can take.
Luckily we aren’t required to us iOS. But I don’t know if porn apps will be the reason I’d switch to Android.
The other day Twitter released its video sharing app Vine to some podcast acclaim and website coverage. It lets you upload short, 6-second clips that loop and playback with sound.
While it’s not the first app to offer this kind of service, with a juggernaut like Twitter backing it, this one seems like it has the best shot of getting adopted.
This is bittersweet to me. A few months back, I heard about an app called Lightt which, instead of video clips, takes a serious of photos that play in succession, creating a stop-motion looking video clip when played in full.
My girlfriend and I played with Lightt a little and while it was strange at first, we started to get it and have fun. The most compelling feature was a horizontal timeline of random users which you could scrub through forward or backward in time. It was enjoyable and enlightening, seeing moments in the lives of people from all over the world strung together in a never ending film. There were hardly any loading times and when I had a good connection it was easy to get lost in the spectacle.
The App was clean and well designed, simple in the best way.
But we could never convince our friends to join and over time, even my girlfriend and I used it more sparingly.
So I downloaded the Vine app today to check it out. And my first impressions are that, full motion video is definitely less jarring but the interface is wrong. It posts them in a vertical timeline like Instagram, separated by user info and comments. Also, because it’s video and not a series of photos like Lightt, they take a while to load. The color and UI are a childish looking pastel; coming off simple in a bad way.
I suspect that Vine is more capable than Lightt ever could be, but with all the different sections and categories and hashtags, it completely lacks the freedom and discovery element that Lightt has.That was what made a service like this interesting to me.
I don’t think Lightt has much of a chance to succeed under the weight of something like Vine, which has integration with Twitter and, as a result, a sizable built in user-base.
Maybe Lightt never actually had a chance. It seemed to lack the kind of quick adoption that a new social network needs. The idea of a short video version of Instagram is still an unproven concept. Maybe Vine wont succeed either.
But I’m still sad. Sometimes, good design and good ideas don’t win.In Vine’s and Lightt’s case, I feel this is true.
Nothing is worse than writing a cover letter for a job and then thinking about it later and realizing I probably came off sounding desperate, somewhat aggressive and anything but the person they were looking for like a dork.