vine_drop_smallThe archduke has been assassinated.

The harbor has been bombed.

The rich Czech guys were thrown out the window.

We are now at war. The biggest war that the digital world has seen since the Great Browser War (1996 – 1998) — but that massive conflict was peanuts in comparison, since it featured only two combatants.

The Great Picture War exploded into a volatile and unpredictable new phase last week, when Twitter — who had hitherto enjoyed an aura of neutrality when it came to the critical function of sharing pictures between friends — released Vine.

For those of you living under a rock, Vine has triggered a nuclear option, raising the stakes on our entire understanding of sharing pictures with our friends. Now it’s not just about sharing a picture. It’s about sharing six seconds worth of picture with your friends.

But if the picture wars have entered a new Stalingrad-moment, then it’s only because Instagram launched Operation Barbarossa on December 9th, forcing Twitter’s hand. It seems like an eternity of carnage has transpired since then, but for those of you whose minds haven’t yet exploded, let me remind you of more peaceful days:

Until December 8, a Twitter user could include an Instagram photo in his or her tweets, thus creating convenience for his or her friends. Then — in an act that will forever live in infamy — Instagram impeded Twitter’s scraping powers, forever forcing innocent users to click a link before viewing an Instagram-based picture on Twitter.

The masses erupted.

Czar Nicholas Carlson denounced it as an outrage, and he expressed his fury by writing his typical contrarian article to seduce readers by saying the exact opposite of what he really thinks.

But, of course, there is a shadow force behind all this. It seems we have already forgotten that Kevin Systrom — the mad genius behind Instagram’s escalation of tension — is but a manchukuo puppet lord for Mark Zuckerberg’s empire.

Facebook pretends that it has some sort of greater mission. The great conspirator — who came to power in a bloodbath that saw his co-founders beheaded one by one — commits his egregious acts under a pretense of “making the world a more open place,” but really his entire web empire is predicated upon one critical lifeline:

Helping friends share pictures.

… of things like who Mandy was at the bar with. Or, like, the time Jake was doing karaoke and his roommate Ethan tackled him right when Jake was singing the “don’t stop belieeeeeeeeving” part.

Zuckerberg will defend — to the death — his control over this dominion. He must have it at all costs. And he paid one billion dollars to win the allegiance of Systrom, whose own ambitions were growing out of control.

Now, back to Twitter.

With its back against the wall, Twitter had to consider its options. King Richard Costolo first turned to his advisors, and asked them if any other photo sharing army could join forces in the battle against Facebook and Instagram.

First, they turned to Flickr, a once-powerful force in the world of picture sharing, who had fallen on hard times. But before an alliance could be forged, Flickr’s Mad Queen Marissa announced that she is fighting a new war entirely… the war to be the Google of Content. A war entirely in her head.

Realizing that Yahoo was completely batshit crazy, Twitter’s options were limited. Their efforts to contact Google were in vain, for the lords atop View Mountain were drunk with power after winning their battle to become the No. 2 social network. And when Costolo pursued the small mercenary army of Path, their General Morin decreed that his application was too pure and beautiful to cooperate with anybody. Not even for one trillion gazillion dollars.

Twitter had nowhere to turn.

And so — with everything at stake and no backup option — they launched the unthinkable, and in a fit of passion, decided to change the game entirely. They took their best scientists to a small parcel of desert land in New Mexico, and on that spot, with the entire future of mankind’s collective memories on the line, they developed Vine.

A weapon of great power had been forged. They had become death, the destroyer of worlds.

In an effort to minimize innocent civilian casualties, Twitter sent all the remaining women, babies, and cute puppies to Pinterest, where they would be safe from the charred rain of cock-shots that would fall upon mankind once Vine exploded.

Then, on the early morning of January 24, 2013, it was unleashed.

It’s still too early to say what the toll will be. We are only now assessing the initial impact. New memes are being reported from all corners of the digital stratosphere. People slapping themselves was one of the first to emerge. But other pointless acts of group-induced self-expression have appeared on the horizon.

As I write this account — from the safety of my bedroom — I know not what the future holds for our human race.

Just tonight, I took a picture of my friend Nate eating a gigantic bowl of nachos, and we still don’t know how I am going to share it with his four friends who give a shit. They may never see it.

But this much I can say… When we woke up on Thursday morning, our world had changed. And there is no going back.

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]