It’s rare for a multi-million dollar company to explicitly state that their business is dying because it’s just too cool to live.
But that’s the bold strategy gif search engine Giphy has taken with Britain’s competition regulator as it tries to block a $400m (£352m) takeover bid by the Facebook owner, Meta.
In a filing with the Competition and Markets Authority, Giphy argued that there was simply no company other than Meta that would buy it.
Its valuation is down $200 million from its 2016 high and, more importantly, its core offering is showing signs of demobilization. “There are indications of an overall decline in the use of gifs,” the company said in its filing, “due to a general decline in user and content partner interest in gifs.
“They’re out of fashion as a form of content anymore, with younger users in particular describing gifs as ‘for baby boomers’ and ‘cringe’.”
To underscore this point, Giphy’s filing included links to several articles and tweets.
The generational divide is real, says internet culture writer Ryan Broderick. “The gifs look extremely dated. They were never easy to make and didn’t work particularly well on mobile.
“So now they’re basically the kickback reaction image your millennial boss uses in Slack. Rather than what they were, it was a decentralized type of image to communicate on blogs and message boards. It’s actually kind of sad how the gif has been stifled by big business, copyright laws, and mobile browsers.
The animated gif is also comfortably millennial: invented in 1989, it predates not only smartphones and social media, but even the World Wide Web. It exploded in popularity alongside the rise of the web as the easiest way to add movement to a page, but it slowly lost ground to other ways of displaying images that required less the limited bandwidth of the time.
Its revival came at the turn of the 2010s, alongside the growth of the social network Tumblr. Although gifs were never meant to replace video, faster internet connections meant they were once again the easiest way to share short clips – too short to make sense on their own but perfect to add context and color to posts in the form of the “reaction gif”.
Popularized by Tumblr blogs such as What Should We Call Me, which curated a perfect selection of responses to any situation, reaction gifs quickly became synonymous with the format itself. Why respond to a message with “OMG,” when you can post a quick clip of Donald Glover from the sitcom community walking into a burning room carrying a stack of pizza?
At the height of its cultural impact, creating, publishing, and curating gifs could have easily become a full-time job. The top creators were known for how quickly they could extract shareable moments from TV shows or live events as they aired, as well as for their ability to massage the format to maintain a consistent frequency. images and low file size.
But while the most dedicated posters kept large archives of their most used gifs, neatly sorted and tagged, for many finding exactly the right one to use in any situation was boring.
This was the problem Giphy sought to solve when it was founded in 2013. As a “search engine for gifs”, the company gathered over 300,000 of them from the web, tagged and categorized them, and helped users find exactly the right one for any given situation.
“Giphy was envisioned over breakfast with my partner on the project, Alex Chung, while thinking about the rise of purely visual communication,” co-founder Jace Cooke said in a 2013 interview with the Daily Dot. . “We both couldn’t understand how hard it still was to find and share gifs, and we thought we could do something about it.”
But the democratization of gifs has also laid the foundations for their destruction. “Whether by design or intent, Giphy’s search tools have led to noticeable monotony in gif culture,” said 2020 internet culture writer Brian Feldman.
“The same principles that apply to Google also seem to apply to Giphy: if you’re not in the top three results, you might as well not exist. Reaction gifs have become flattened and less diverse.
Technical changes have made the problem worse. The same reasons the gif died the first time hadn’t gone away: the technology produces large files with poor image quality.
Even though sites such as Twitter and Facebook have incorporated support for posting gifs, they have also modified them, turning them into video files to display them more effectively on mobile devices. This meant users couldn’t just download a gif they’d seen and save it for later, which further flattened the available selection.
Last year’s best gifs tell their own story. As Giphy grew as a company, to the point where its annual revenue is now estimated at $27.5 million by GrowJo analysts, it also encountered another problem: the right to ‘author.
The company’s response was to partner with media outlets to host original gifs, and today nine of the site’s top 10 gifs of 2021 were posted there by the company that created them, in the as part of a cross-promotion campaign to encourage viral content.
The #1 gif of 2021 was a slow zoom in on the Stanley character from the US version of The Office – a clip from a 15-year-old episode of a show that was old before Giphy was even created. Second place is a clip of Tom, of Tom and Jerry, falling asleep on a pillow; the third is from a contemporary source, a shot of Bake Off looking shocked. Only one, a cartoon of a happy fat dancing duck, was created by anyone other than a major media partner.
Giphy even lists “its ability to retain key content partners” as the main reason the CMA is allowing it to pursue the acquisition of Meta, arguing that a less-respected owner could jeopardize relationships.
But the gif has also overtaken Giphy. Gif keyboards in apps such as WhatsApp and Twitter may not all use the service – competitors such as Tenor, which was acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount in 2018, also exist – but they have all have the same effect: to make people’s lives easier. to send shareable clips quickly to each other. And yes, that includes baby boomers.
The best gifs of 2021
1. Bored Stanley from the US office
2. Tom tired of Tom and Jerry
3. Liam shocked from The Great British Bake Off
4. Pokémon’s Sad Pikachu
5. Agatha Harkness winking at WandaVision
6. Peppa Pig saying “¡Feliz Cumple!” of the Spanish language Peppa Pig.
7. The weekend performing at the Super Bowl
8. Daphne Bridgerton laughs at Bridgerton
9. A happy dancing duck by host Foodieg
10. Happy Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian
. gifs make cringe teeth how the company several millions dollars Giphy is gone fashion the Internet