Facebook has announced that it has acquired GIF platform GIPHY in a deal reported to be worth around $400 million.
GIPHY is the most popular GIF database on the web, with its 500 million daily active users viewing more than 11 million hours of GIFs every day through various surfaces. GIPHY has been able to maximize its usage by offering API integration to a range of websites - including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, among others.
Now, GIPHY will be brought into the Instagram team - as per Facebook:
"A lot of people in our community already know and love GIPHY. In fact, 50% of GIPHY’s traffic comes from the Facebook family of apps, half of that from Instagram alone. By bringing Instagram and GIPHY together, we can make it easier for people to find the perfect GIFs and stickers in Stories and Direct."
So what does that mean for those other platforms that also use GIPHY to power their GIF search functions? Well, nothing... yet.
As explained by GIPHY:
"And for our API/SDK partners and developers: GIPHY’s GIFs, Stickers, Emojis, etc. aren’t going anywhere. We will continue to make GIPHY openly available to the wider ecosystem."
So what, exactly, does Facebook have planned for its new toy?
In the announcement, Facebook doesn't reveal much, only noting that the integration of GIPHY and Instagram will "accelerate how people use visual communication to connect with each other". Which doesn't really mean anything.
GIPHY says that:
"GIPHY’s Stickers were the perfect fit for layering on Instagram Stories, while our GIF search allowed everyone to capture that perfect emotion in Instagram’s DMs. Based on the success of those collaborations (and many others) we know that there are exciting times ahead of us."
As noted, GIFs have proven particularly popular on Instagram, so further integration with Stories makes sense, though there's no indication of exactly how that will look as yet.
In February, Instagram added the capacity to reply to Stories with GIFs - using its GIPHY integration - which was the last GIF-related announcement from the company prior to today's acquisition news.
TIL... You can reply to Instagram Stories with a GIF— Matt Navarra | ???? #StayAtHome (@MattNavarra) February 4, 2020
Start typing your reply to a story, the icon changes to GIF
h/t @thebkh pic.twitter.com/2j9mN2lg66
That could provide some indicator of where they're looking with future GIF plans, though you'd expect that Instagram will have something more significant in the works.
Of course, Facebook will also glean new branding and data-tracking benefits, both through the expanded exposure of the new 'GIPHY by Facebook' brand, and usage of GIPHY content across the web. Google purchased GIF platform Tenor back in 2018, which it's since used to better utilize GIFs inside Google images and other services, while it also has the advantage of being able to track more data trends via GIF usage.
More data, and understanding usage trends, is valuable, though likely not quite worth the $400 million price tag on its own in this respect.
But then again, maybe I'm undervaluing the potential value of GIFs as an indicator of emotional sentiment. Tenor, for example, has repeatedly touted the value of its 'Emotional Graph', which it's able to map based on GIF usage across the web.
Maybe, by getting more insight into GIF usage, Facebook will be able to add emotional insight into its ad targeting capacity in order to improve response - if you knew, for example, that clusters of people were more commonly expressing certain emotions, that could make them more open to specific messaging, or products, which could help Facebook further enhance engagement.
Essentially, there's no definitive outline of what the deal means for the various elements at this stage, but it seems likely that GIPHY will continue to operate as it has done - though there is a chance that Facebook could cut off rising competitors like TikTok at some stage (or, alternatively, that apps using GIPHY's API will switch it off to avoid Facebook learning about in-app GIF usage).
Hopefully, we'll see some more interesting GIF integrations within Instagram Stories coming soon.
UPDATE (3/18): Instagram chief Adam Mosseri provided this additional note of context on the GIPHY deal:
The data that is valuable is understanding what's trending in the world. Instagram is about culture, and understanding what's hip, is, yes useful to know and will help make both GIPHY and Instagram better.— Adam Mosseri ???? (@mosseri) May 18, 2020