Pope Benedict XVI's twitter account is pictured on a smart phone in front of the Twitter logo displayed on a laptop in this photo illustration taken in Rome December 3, 2012. (MAX ROSSI/REUTERS)

Vine, the photo-sharing service Twitter snapped up last fall, has released a new app that tests the limits of your creativity with a single question: How much can you do in six seconds?

That’s the time limit for videos on the app, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be seeing long, static shots of your friends’ breakfasts. Think of it more as a version of the animated .gif, the often-goofy, looping file format that’s been an online staple for years, but with sound.

Vine distinguishes itself from other social video sites by letting users pause and restart their recordings, allowing you to cherry-pick the scenes that pack the most punch for your short clip montage. Vine’s made it easy to stop and start the camera — simply hold your thumb on the screen to get rolling, and lift up to stop.

The app lends itself to sharing how-tos and time-lapse updates, though people have already started using it to share short animations as well.

Placing time limits on the length of the total video, Vine co-founder Dom Hoffmann said, can really let users test their own limits.

Hoffmann said “constraint inspires creativity, whether it’s through a 140-character Tweet or a six-second video.”

Users can see Vine videos in their Twitter feeds, as well as on Facebook. Videos are also assigned their own URLs and are hosted on Vine’s Web site.

The app is now available for free on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Video-sharing has become a growing part of social media, with apps such as Viddy and SocialCam gaining popularity. Another video-sharing app, Threadlife — from Zappos alums Nick Swimurn and Ken Martin — places a three-second limit on video clips and strings together user responses and updates to create running video dialogues.

With backing from a platform like Twitter, Vine has a good shot at making video-sharing more accessible.

The move also builds on Twitter's efforts to provide more multimedia in posts on its site. Last month, the company made moves to take on Facebook’s Instagram photo-sharing service by releasing its own tools to add advanced effects to mobile photos. Adding Vine’s short, scrollable videos is a logical next step in the company’s effort to have users share meaningful snippets of their lives with their friends.

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