Once upon a time, there was an app called Vine that was the king of short-form video. This was well before TikTok took on that mantle. Vine allowed users to record and share short-form looping videos of seven seconds or less. Its early creators included personalities-to-be Jake and Logan Paul and singer Shawn Mendes.
Vine performed so well as a video social app that Twitter chose to buy it after only a couple of months. It continued to attract attention and reached 200 million active users by December 2015. Yet, only a year later, Twitter chose to disable uploads and archive the existing videos.
Yet that wasn't the end of Vine. The creator of that platform was Dom Hoffman, and after its demise, he continued to develop a successor. In January 2020, almost eight years after Vine launched, Hoffman was ready, and Byte hit the app stores.
Back in 2012, Vine was an all-new way to share video. However, in 2020, short-video apps are far more common. Perhaps the fiercest competition will come from TikTok, the fastest-growing app in the world in recent years.
What is Byte?
Many Consider Byte to be Vine 2
Because Byte has a similar premise to the original Vine and is also the brainchild of Hoffman, many inevitably consider Byte to be Vine 2. Indeed many people still refer to the project as Vine 2, regardless of its formal name.
Hofmann always intended to develop a successor to Vine. He had already left Vine by the time Twitter acquired it and watched its success, then failure, under Twitter's watch. Hoffmann built his first prototype of a Vine replacement in late 2016, but this never went anywhere. He then announced V2 in early 2018 but canceled that project a few months later. Eventually, he began beta testing what became Byte in April 2019.
Of course, technology and expectations have moved on considerably since the development of the original Vine. It is probably better to think of Byte as Vine on steroids. It offers all the features and benefits of the original Vine, along with improved monetization and communication opportunities.
How Does Byte Work?
As with the original, Byte allows its users to use their creativity to make looping videos – although these are slightly shorter at six seconds rather than Vine's seven seconds.
Of course, in this era of TikTok, you need more than just the ability to play short clips in a video social app. You need an entire social component as well. Byte comes with all the features that you would expect in any social app. These include a mini content feed for each user, an Explore page where you can find interesting content from people you don’t know, notifications, and profile pages where you can tell the world about yourself. Byte also features a community forum, enabling followers to communicate with their favorite creators.
Byte recognizes the need to reward its most successful creators by offering a monetization program right from the early days of the platform.
However, video is still the heart of Byte. You can either shoot short video clips from within the Byte app, upload videos you take directly on your device or upload clips you have shot and edited elsewhere. Just make sure you remember the six-second limitation.
Byte users receive an endless feed of videos that they can scroll through, selecting those they wish to watch and ignoring the rest – much as with any other social app.
Byte doesn’t yet have all the bells and whistles that TikTok users love, but it is debatable how useful many of these are to the typical user. Are augmented reality filters an essential part of TikTok's success? If they are, it will only be a matter of time before Byte's developers create their own version.
Some creators consider the lack of effects on Byte a benefit. You only have six seconds to tell your Byte story. Why distract from your message with whizz-bang effects?
Who Are Byte’s Main Users?
There is a range of early adopters of Byte. These range from former Vine superstars (influencers before people started using the term) to youngsters looking for an alternative to TikTok. Some of today’s TikTok stars have also set up shop on Byte.
Byte's partner program has attracted some innovators, looking at a way to earn cash from their video antics.
Byte’s users have garnered themselves the obvious nickname – Byters. And the name given to the videos they share is Bytes. So, Byters share Bytes on Byte!
Byte comes as a free app for both iOS and Android. Indeed you need to be firmly committed to one of these two systems. You can only sign in using your Apple or Google sign-in. Byte has chosen not to use a separate email/password log-in, believing that by doing so, they offer more security and help prevent spam and inauthentic accounts.
Byte seems to favor the minimalistic and features a sleek, simple format, that makes everything intuitive to its users.
Making a Byte Profile
As with most social media apps, you have a personalized profile on Byte. You begin by selecting a username, in 20 characters or less. As always, you will want to upload a photo to represent yourself. It is worthwhile creating a personalized bio that represents your interests and tastes, so your followers can understand the type of person you are.
Navigating the Byte Menu
When you first open Byte, it presents you with a Trending Videos screen. This is effectively your video feed. You will find a menu at the bottom of your screen with the following options: Home, Explore, Record, Activity, and Profile.
As you go through your Trending Videos feed, you will typically choose to watch those videos that attract you. If you consider one good enough to share, you can “Rebyte" it by tapping the buttons next to the creator's name. You can also make comments, as well as reading those made by other people.
If you select Explore, you can search for videos by channel (topic), as well as viewing the newest videos uploaded onto Byte.
The Record button allows you to create/upload your own videos. Activity is Byte’s version of video analytics.
Uploading a Byte
Before too long, many new Byte users feel like uploading original videos. You begin this process by tapping on the Record button. This gives you the option to either record a six-second video in the app, or to upload one from elsewhere (including from your phone’s Camera app).
Whichever method you use to create (and possibly upload) your video, you will have the option to add it to a relevant channel and write a suitable caption.
Following the Byte Community
Byte has made a real point of creating a connected community. Hofmann even ran a beta testing forum after his initial announcement of the app in early 2018.
Hofmann makes the purpose of Byte’s community clear in his welcoming message:
“What are these forums for? …
- Artists and creators: your experiences, hopes, and dreams
- Viewers: meaningful conversation and analysis about your favorite kinds of videos
- Your thoughts on online video in general
- Your ideas and wishes for the service
- Improvements that we could make to this forum to make it more fun and easier to use”
Tracking Your Byte Growth
Once you have some videos on Byte, you might be interested in their progress, particularly if you intend to use Byte for marketing purposes. You can get basic analytics from the Activity screen. This will show you who has liked and commented on your videos. You can then tap on their profile pictures and consider following them back and engaging with their videos.
If you go to your Profile page, click on the three dots next to the Edit Profile button. You can then open your Settings. From there, you can scroll down to see your list of Followers.
One of the smartest moves that Hofmann has made with Byte is to set up a partner program, virtually from the start. This has given it a clear differentiator and encouraged people already established on TikTok and other platforms to also add Byte as a place to go. Notably, TikTok hasn't gone down that path yet. Perhaps the most comparable video networks for this (albeit with anything but short videos) is Twitch.
Successful influencers and creators on platforms lacking a monetization program have had to think outside the box to earn money. Indeed many changed to other more lucrative platforms once they have built a sufficient following. How many successful Snapchat-only creators have you heard about, for instance? As successful as TikTok may be (and they at least have a formal advertising market now), it is not uncommon to see TikTok influencers share highlights videos on YouTube where it is easier for them to revenue share.
How Can Brands Use Byte?
Byte is very much user-focused and prides itself on limiting some of the advertising features that brands love. You can't retarget on Byte, for instance. Although brands can place ads on Byte, there are no pre-roll ads or ads in your following feed.
Byte centralizes its ads through its Partner program. Although the Partner Program is currently by invitation only, brands can apply to be considered. Byte isn't necessarily trying to discriminate against brands per se, they just want to limit the amount of advertising on the platform, so it doesn’t become a dominant presence.
According to the initial details on Byte's Partner Program, “The brand campaigns you see on byte will celebrate creativity and community, just like the features and programs we build.” They also highlight that during the time of the pilot program, 100% of ad revenue will go to creators through the Partner Program. In the long-term, the majority of the revenue will still go to creators, with a minority going to Byte to help with their operations and business.
Who Are Byte’s Competitors?
Clearly, the greatest threat to Byte's success has to be TikTok. That Chinese-based app has grown at a tremendous pace, with over 1 billion users. It has taken much of the ground formerly occupied by Vine.
But TikTok isn’t Byte’s only competition. If you are into short videos, then you probably already know about Dubsmash, Triller, and Firework, not to mention Facebook’s Lasso. And of course, if your interest is more about the social side of the app, then Byte can consider all of the major social networks and video sharing sites as competition.
But Byte still has the advantage of having Dom Hoffman as its creator. To some, the short video sphere is his, and Byte is the long-awaited and promised Vine 2. This provides Byte a pedigree that bumps it above much of the more-established but less-known competition. It can always attract the nostalgia market, even when TikTok catches the kids who weren’t yet born at Vine’s inception.