Giphy Acquired by Facebook for $300-400 Million

The Graphics Interchange Format, also know as the GIF is something we are all now familiar with. The use of GIFs has changed the way we communicate as an easy way to insert colour and movement into conversations, articles or even comments. The power of the GIF should not be understated – whilst they can be seen as a source of minor entertainment, you may be surprised to hear the value of the main platform for GIFs, the search engine Giphy, has been reported at after they were bought by social giants Facebook.

Whilst the specific terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed, it has been reported that Facebook has acquired Giphy for around $300-400 million earlier this week. The purchase was confirmed by Facebook, yet there is no mention on the Giphy website itself. The website looks largely unchanged, and the implications that this purchase will have is largely unknown – it could mean that, as The Verge tells us:

‘how you send and receive GIFs on the internet could change forever’ (Jay Peters, The Verge Facebook’s Giphy acquisition might have big implications for Imessage and Twitter, 2020).

Or, we might not see changes at all. The mystery surrounding this purchase intensified even more when we learnt that the now-super-popular video conference giant Zoom – a service that has now been incorporated into our daily vocabulary – has removed Giphy from its chat feature.

Zoom tells us this is only temporary, and that they are removing it 'To ensure strong privacy protection for users'. This was included in a blog detailing the updates of the product and assures us that 'Once additional technical and security measures have been deployed, we will re-enable the feature'. It cannot be mere coincidence that this comes just days after Facebook, a company that has had numerous security scandals and concerns, acquires Giphy.

There is growing concern around the security of GIFs, and this concern will only grow as they become more and more integrated into a platform that famously – as seen in the Cambridge Analytica scandal – keeps mass tabs on its users.

Facebook frames the purchase of Giphy as an extension to the Facebook ‘family’ in a blog post, and tells us that they want to further integrate the massive library of GIFs hosted by Giphy into Instagram and their other applications ‘so that people can find just the right way to express themselves.’

The Facebook logo as seen on a phone screen

However, many experts think the intent is to further the use of GIFs as a marketing tool and to influence consumers.

Mark Sullavan reports his conversation with Michael Ostrovksy, economics professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, in the blog ‘The real reason Facebook bought Giphy for $400 million.’

Michael thinks that ‘One of the biggest values in the deal for Facebook might be data. Already, 50% of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook apps. But now Facebook will know what Giphy GIFs people are sharing in all the other apps that use Giphy’s database, including Apple’s iMessage, Snapchat, Telegram, and TikTok’. (Mark Sullivan, FastCompany 2020)

Regardless of the implications of these events, this purchase has the potential to transform the way GIFS are used in not only marketing but in everyday use. You can potentially expect to see the use of the beloved GIF skyrocket in coming months, and a shift in focus on it's use on Facebook and Instagram.

The use of the platform on rival competitors such as Twitter remains equally as mysterious – we can be sure to keep an eye out for the legitimisation of GIFs as marketing tools to continue.

Forbes wrote of this phenomenon over three years ago – writer John Rampton provided us with a useful list of ways to use GIFs in your digital marketing strategy and tells us that ‘While it’s easy to just assume that GIFs are just a fun way to communicate – and they are – they resonate with many people you want to connect to in your target audience and provide a way to reach these clients or customers in a form of communication they relate to.’

This relatability could be transformed by this purchase, for better or for worse. For now, all we can do is observe the inflections of GIF use and marvel at the further evolution of the way we visually communicate online.

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