Thirty minutes after a pair of explosive devices detonated near the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, the six-second Vine video of the blast posted by Doug Lorman began speeding its way across Twitter and the internet at large. For many people trying to find out about the tragedy online, it was their first encounter with video coverage of the grisly scene.
Boston Marathon explosion from the news vine.co/v/bFdt5uwg6JZ— Doug_Life (@Doug_Lorman) April 15, 2013
It was also a new, high-profile role for Vine, a video platform that has primarily been used so far to record people's relatively trivial daily happenings. As speculation and rumors flourished after the bombs went off, web users flocked to watch six-second loops of the actual events, perfectly suited for sharing on social networks.
Vine's limits, however, were also on display. The platform only allows users to create six-second videos, which then run in a continuous loop. The most telling and graphic video coverage of the event ultimately proved to be a two-minute, 41-second video shot by a Boston Globe reporter who was standing at the finish line when the first explosion hit. And Vine's looping effect seemed macabre to some, as it put a horrible event on rapid repeat.
The clip that Mr. Lorman posted shows runners approaching the finish line when a ball of orange and yellow smoke erupts in the upper-right portion of the screen. The frame briefly freezes. The blast causes guard rails to burst onto the street. Flags start toppling in the same direction. We see one runner's legs give out -- presumably due to a combination of exhaustion and terror from the nearby explosion. A volunteer in a yellow jacket runs away from the explosion. And then it starts over.
Mr. Lorman -- who has a modest following, in the hundreds -- saw his Vine tweeted by others 40,000 times.
Vine became the top social media app in the Apple Store one day after Twitter introduced it in January and is now the No. 2 free app overall. But its debut was met with skepticism regarding how the video-sharing platform would be used. Other social video platforms had preceded it without seeming to gain critical mass. Brands have experimented with it, but no clear results have yet been gleaned.
Now Vine seems to have found a place in news coverage, but not without posing new questions. The viral spread of Mr. Lorman's video, for example, will likely raise copyright issues for Vine. His video was not original footage, after all -- it was a Vine recording of an ABC affiliate's broadcast. Broadcasters may start viewing Vine as an effective way to share snippets of live coverage that are ideal for quick internet viewing, but may not be happy to see others originate Vine videos of their content.