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Why Twitter Has Regrets About Killing Vine—Data Sheet

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In an unusually candid moment during a news briefing on Tuesday, a Twitter executive admitted that the company’s decision to kill video app Vine two years ago was a mistake.

“I do regret that we shut down Vine,” said Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s head of product. “I think Vine was amazing.”

Vine, founded in 2012, was a social media app that let users share six-second video clips with friends. Nine months after Vine was founded, Twitter scooped it up for a reported $30 million and then unexpectedly shut it down five years later.

Around the same time, TikTok, another app for creating and sharing short videos, debuted. Since then, it has been downloaded more than 950 million times, making it an international phenomenon with the younger crowd. Even absent TikTok's success, Beykpour said he would have regretted shuttering Vine. Vine “was really the first, that I can recall, of social apps that really pushed the boundaries on how you can edit video,” he said.

So what led Twitter to ultimately prune Vine? According to Beykpour, the decision was based on Twitter's "stage" at the time and its ability—or implied inability—to invest in Vine.

Flash back to 2017: Twitter lost $108.1 million on $2.4 billion in revenue, $86.3 million less than the previous year. The company was also struggling to add new users. “We made a decision we really had to make,” Beykpour said, adding that taking the clippers to Vine was “extremely sad.”

Shuttering of a once-hopeful acquisition isn’t unique to Twitter. It's actually quite common. Google shut down Picnik, a photo editor, just two years after buying it in 2010. In 2018, Facebook shuttered Moves, Hello, and tbh, three apps it bought over four years, after they failed to gain traction. And Microsoft had big plans for calendar App Sunrise when it bought it 2015. A year later, the app was dead

Why all the failure? In an effort to keep a competitive edge, larger players often snap up startups, pick off the valuable pieces, like talent or intellectual property, and toss what's left away. More often, however, is the bungled acquisition. Through incompetence or inattention, companies fail to do much with the startups they buy and ultimately decide to shut them down.

Twitter’s purchase of Vine seems to fall in the latter category. But Vine’s demise is especially interesting given that Beykpour believes that video is “increasingly becoming the way that people have conversations.” 

For Twitter, that means leaning on its live video-streaming service Periscope, another one of its acquisitions. But it's no Vine—and certainly not anywhere near being a TikTok.

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Danielle Abril

On Twitter: @DanielleDigest

Email: [email protected]

Correction: The headline for this article incorrectly described the reason a Twitter executive gave for his company eliminating video service Vine. The headline has been updated.

NEWSWORTHY

The whys and wherefores. Speaking of Twitter, in the company’s latest attempt to become more useful, the service will create specialized feeds curated on specific topics, such as sports or TV shows, that users can follow to see relevant tweets from accounts they aren’t following.  

Feedback. In the latest missive from “some” Google employees, workers are circulating a petition to have the company shun working for U.S. immigration agencies including the Customs and Border Protection service, which has carried out the Trump administration’s heinous policy of separating migrant children from their parents. 

Sticky fingers. More bad news on the privacy front. Paige Thompson, the Seattle woman arrested for hacking into servers at Capitol One, also penetrated computers at 30 other companies, prosecutors said in a filing on Tuesday. Thompson is said to have downloaded “multiple terabytes” of data stolen from the companies, educational institutions, and other entities.

Family reunion. On Wall Street, virtualization king VMware may acquire its former sister company, Pivotal, for $15 per share, a premium of more than 80% over Pivotal’s stock price. VMware and Dell formed Pivotal in 2013 to concentrate on big data analytics, but the spinoff has floundered since going public in 2018 at $15 per share. Now it could be acquired at the same price. Elsewhere, Cisco Systems reported glum news. Revenue next quarter could be as little as $12.9 billion, $500 million less than analysts expect, due to slumping sales in China. Shares of Cisco, previously up 19% this year, dropped 9% in premarket trading on Thursday. 

Rapid progress. China’s fast-growing gadget maker OnePlus is planning to debut another low-cost 5G mobile phone later this year and also a television set with wireless connection capability, CEO Pete Lau told The Financial Times.

I’m not sure that helps your case. Already under fire for ties to the Chinese government, telecom giant Huawei Technologies was the focus of a Wall Street Journal investigation accusing the company of helping repressive African countries spy on political opponents. The company said it “rejects completely these unfounded and inaccurate allegations.” 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Not all of the benefits of improving technology flow to those of us in the legitimate economy. Crooks who steal credit and debit card numbers at gas stations have been taking advantage of the latest Bluetooth wireless technology to make so-called skimmers that can hide inside of gasoline pumps. The hidden skimmer records the numbers of customers’ cards, allowing the crooks to pull up and download the data in a few seconds onto their phones. A new study finds the scheme is quite lucrative, security expert and author Brian Krebs notes on his blog:

The fuel skimmer study also helps explain how quickly these hidden devices can generate huge profits for the organized gangs that typically deploy them. The researchers found the skimmers their app found collected data from roughly 20 -25 payment cards each day — evenly distributed between debit and credit cards (although they note estimates from payment fraud prevention companies and the Secret Service that put the average figure closer to 50-100 cards daily per compromised machine)…“Based on the prior figures, we estimate the range of per-day revenue from a skimmer is $4,253 (25 cards per day, cashout of $362 per card, and 47% cashout success rate), and our high end estimate is $63,638 (100 cards per day per day, $1,354 cashout per card, and cashout success rate of 47%),” the study notes.

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Are Credit Card Companies the Key to Stopping Mass Shooters? These Visa Shareholders Think So By Ellen Florian

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4 Fast-Growing Companies for Investors Hunting for Bargain By Ryan Derousseau

BEFORE YOU GO

As a lifelong Boston Celtics fan, I don’t think I’ll be too supportive of the Brooklyn Nets next season, after Celts star Kyrie Irving flew the coop and joined the Nets this summer. But you can’t deny that the Nets, who also signed injured Golden State star Kevin Durant, are on an upswing. So it’s probably a coup for Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, who is reportedly exercising an option to buy full control of the team away from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets next come to Boston to play the Celtics on November 27. We’re marking our calendars, as it will be our first opportunity to boo Kyrie, as Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy pointed out the other day. Sorry, Joe.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.