Every now and then comes a really cool service that takes more to explain with words than to just try it out yourself.
Once signed up you can start a discussion by creating a new Vine. A Vine in Grapevine groups together multiple audio messages from various participants that belong to a specific topic.
Vines can be private, which means that only those Grapevine users you directly add can listen and record. Open vines allow everybody to tune in and contribute. Finally there’s an option to make a Vine public, which sets it sort of between private and open Vines: Everybody can listen but only selected users can add audio recordings. Public Vines could be an interesting candidate to broadcast your next panel discussion.
Initially Grapevine started as a browser based service but switched to an Adobe AIR client recently.
In terms of its look & fell the desktop application pretty much fits into the category of timeline based real-time clients like Tweetie for the Mac, Socialcast or Skype. Similarly, it allows you to follow Vines, search for specific topics or just tune into the most popular ones.
The screenshot to the left shows The Next Web staff test driving Grapevine from three different countries.
While we ultimately managed to get it working and actually had much fun using it, we recommended to the Grapevine team to do another round of usability enhancements.
Unfortunately many aspects of what really turned out to be a cool service where somewhat buried deep inside the far too complex application.
As an example we were seeking looking for the live broadcast feature, that would allow us to do real-time conversations as opposed to recording messages and playing them back time shifted.
It turned out that the service automagically switches to broadcast for all participants that have tuned into a Vine at the same time. Part of our confusion might have been caused by the not-so-common terminology used everywhere. When did you “tune into a Vine” the last time?
Clearly needs some rework before it can go mainstream!
Besides enhancing the Adobe AIR application the Grapevine team is working on a web based version that let’s you at least link and listen to messages and the obligatory iPhone app.
We were intrigued to learn about plans to open up the service for third party enhancement through a Developer API.
While the current feature set is already pretty useful for distributed teams of all sorts, a Developer API would allow everybody to embed Vines into their web sites, blogs, you-name-it and let visitors leave audio commentaries. This could be a fascinating addition to today’s mostly written conversations.
If you’d like to try Grapevine yourself, leave a comment below, we’ve got some invites left.
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