Facebook buys the world’s largest GIF platform Giphy and thus a lot of data about users and competitive channels.
About thirty years ago, computer scientist Steve Wilhite invented the low-memory image format GIF (Graphics Interchance Format). This week, others made a lot of money with his invention: The Giphy platform, which it claims to be the “world’s largest library of GIFs,” changes hands for what is said to be $ 400 million. The buyer: Facebook. The purchase price quoted by the Axios website, which the two companies neither confirm nor deny, is well below what Facebook paid for Whatsapp ($ 22 billion) and Instagram (one billion).
The deal could prove extremely profitable for the social network. Not only because the company secured what is probably the largest GIF database in the world, Facebook also gets a whole range of other data with the purchase.
Giphy’s model of success is simple: the library archives simple animations that users can create from a sequence of several images or as a section of a video. The mini-films can be embedded in other media channels via the Giphy website or via the program interface (API).
The image sequences usually take on the function of emotions in conversations in messenger apps. Instead of the sentence “I’m very happy” or a smiley emojis, the GIF of a dancing Homer Simpson, Brad Pitt or Chandler from the “Friends” series can also be sent. This is more individual, expressive and very successful: According to Giphy, the service registers 700 million users every day.
The integrated Giphy search is already a central feature of Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram: According to the company, 50 percent of Giphy’s traffic is generated via these channels. So what does Facebook expect from buying the platform?
Data from Tiktok, Snapchat and Co.
Observers like Apple blogger John Gruber (Daring Fireball) and network activist Wolfie Christl agree that Facebook is concerned with data. Thanks to the program interface with which Giphy is embedded in other websites, users’ personal data can hardly be created, but metadata about their movement and communication flows can be created. These could be very valuable for Facebook in order to draw conclusions about trends, interests and thus also consumer behavior – and also on third-party platforms such as Tiktok or Snapchat, on which Giphy is also used. As a search feature, Giphy is integrated into all messenger apps, as well as all major social media platforms and hundreds of other channels. According to Facebook, this should continue to be the case.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri wrote on Twitterthat gaining data is not the driving motivation behind the purchase. However, he admits that data on the use and distribution of certain GIFs are very informative for the company and provide insights into cultural trends.
It is unclear what happens to the databases that were generated in the area of already created and shared GIFs. Jochim Selzer from the Chaos Computer Club assumes that with the acquisition of Giphy, all existing databases were also transferred. “According to the GDPR, you have the right to have them deleted at some point, but my optimism is rather limited,” says Selzer.