What's your poison, Valleywag asked a Silicon Valley startup founder last night, Instagram's new Cinema feature or Vine? "Instagram for sure," he shot back. "Easier network effect. Faster gratification. Polished product and more expressive. Twitter has always had this problem with every product."
The founder's company was in talks to be acquired by Twitter recently, but he bowed out for the same reason—and on the advice of other industry insiders.
"There is no product leadership at Twitter. [They] don’t know how to think for the longterm, throw engineers at the problem to bandaid stuff instead of having a solid product roadmap. It’s why we didn’t sell to Twitter."
A few investors and entrepreneurs we spoke to arrived at the same conclusion.
It's still too early to tell whether one app will win out. Perhaps both can thrive. Maybe everyone loses to whatever teens deem the next Snapchat. Vine is currently no. 4 in the Apple App Store, with Instagram right behind it. Anecdotally, in the past couple weeks, I've noticed a steady uptick in acquaintances joining Vine. And links to Vine were recently set to outpace Instagram on Twitter.
But as the founder noted, "Twitter is private. Facebook is public and moves 50 times faster." That calls into question the fate of the 10 companies Twitter acquired last year (the same amount as Cisco, a $112 billion company) as well as its
rumored stand-alone music app, which is still in beta you can download here.
The typically quiet Vine was on the offensive yesterday, with interviews in both Wired and The New York Times. Vine cofounder Dom Hoffman was also busy teasing new features in advance of Instagram's launch, which are not yet publicly available. Michael Sippey, Twitter’s vice president of product, defended the decision not to fully leverage Twitter's network effects in the Times:
The Instagram team sought much the same thing, although it added other features, like the ability to delete portions of a 15-second video and rerecord them. It also included an image stabilization feature to reduce the choppiness that often comes with hand-held recording.
Vine, which is operated as a separate service, has drawn new users to the Twitter microblogging platform, Mr. Sippey said. However, “we think that they are potentially separate networks. You may love my tweets but hate my Vines.”
Although Twitter has no current plans to directly make money from the popularity of Vine, “any tweet that has photo or video in it will drive engagement,” Mr. Sippey said, making the service more valuable to advertisers.
The founder we spoke with blamed groupthink at the top of Twitter for its short-term approach:
Everyone knows they have issues. It’s why no one works there that long. And all of the executive team members at Twitter are Dick’s personal playhouse. All friends that are on his side, so no outside thinking.
The founder did point out that Twitter grew its ad revenue, which is projected to reach nearly $1 billion, very quickly. However, long-time employees stick around, he claimed, because of the liquidity promised by an impending IPO. We'll have to wait until the SEC filing to see what that means. Meanwhile, we find ourselves in the unique position of pitying the subsidiary of a $10 billion company.
[Image via Instagram's Explore tab]