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Facebook to Buy Giphy for $400M (axios.com)
957 points by coloneltcb 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 507 comments

Congrats to giphy I guess? But I'll be honest, any time I've ever used them as an extension in slack or anywhere, and tried to get relevant gifs, I got back some really bad results. I'll never fully understand why they're so successful short of just dominating the market through sheer popularity. I remember switching our team over to rightgif and the difference was astounding given the fact that giphy has millions upon millions and loads of developers.

I've always thought part of the "charm" of Giphy in Slack is that does give you those somewhat silly or "not exactly what I was looking for but actually this is funnier" type of GIFs.

The couple of times I have tried to use it to search for a very specific GIF (like searching for a specific clip from a movie) it hasn't really worked, but whenever I use it for more general stuff like "/giphy cardio sucks" or "/giphy hooray" I get some pretty pleasing results.

I'd just like this trend of sending reaction gifs to end.

<rant> People keep posting them in Slack all the time, but I find it about as appropriate as that brief time when all my uni teachers decided that it's hip to include rage comic faces into every other slide of every presentation.

</rant>, yes I know, I'm fun at parties…

I can't grok this trend at all. All these replies in the form of memes make me feel like I'm in the Darmok episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I'm grateful communication on MatterMost at my company has not seen the need for reaction gifs emerge; the wildest thing we have is a custom emoji of a dancing banana.

> All these replies in the form of memes make me feel like I'm in the Darmok episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If this is an ironic joke, it's a good one. If not, it's painfully un-self-aware.

Because "feels like I'm in Darmok" is just an meaningless in isolation as "Temba, his arms wide."

Whether ironic or not, I found both the initial observation and your reply hilarious. Meme replies really are Darmok, and the meta nature of that is perfect.


```It is a genuine source of hilarity to me that “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” is a potentially really useful popcultural-reference shorthand for “a situation where two groups face a difficulty communicating because one group speaks exclusively in memes and popculture references”```

-- https://twitter.com/venatrixlunaris/status/11852863701068595...

“Grok” is actually a cultural reference; it is a made-up word from a very famous science fiction book.

When people use it, it looks the same to me like if they were using “Live long and prosper” in casual conversation.

I think one difference with "grok" is that, the way it's normally used, there really isn't IMO a perfect English replacement. To me at least, it implies a deeper and broader internalizing of something than saying "I understand it" or "I get it" necessarily implies.

Grokking being beyond understanding something is central to Valentine Michael Smiths understanding of the world, and therefore the plot, in “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

Grok is not simply understanding or knowing a thing, it’s knowing that thing so well and all the things related to that thing, and understanding all of your feelings associated with that thing, that it becomes a part of you. At least, that was my interpretation of it.

Heinlein’s explanation and exposition is more detailed in the actual book. If you have not read it, highly recommended.

Oh, I've read it and it's on my bookshelf. Just something like 3 or 4 decades ago :-) It was never actually a particularly favorite Heinlein for me though so I haven't re-read in a very long time if ever.

Hey same here, and Heinlein was my favorite author for a very long time. That particular book just never really did it for me.

Stranger in a Stranger Land was probably more of particular time and place that a lot of Heinlein's works. Although it came out at in 1961--mostly predating the counterculture era in the US, its mainstream cross-over appeal was definitely tied in with the Summer of Love etc. later in the decade.

1968 would indeed be about the right time period as "I grok Spock" bumper stickers appeared around then too.

happens that it was banned in TX schools until 2003, so i guess some share of population just doesn't grok it :)

It really doesn't. It's just a social signaling mechanism meant to give you the feeling of being cool for knowing about it. Every subculture does this, mostly unconsciously. Heinlein was really good at social dynamics and gave his (mostly young) readers the feeling of being initiated into a social elite. His pal L ron hubbard took the same knowledge in a different direction and created Scientology.

And most memes have a meaning that goes beyond the apparent literal one. For instance, see https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/engli... , talking about the use of "because thing" being more than just "because of thing". For instance, "rough and dough don't rhyme, because English". It started as a meme, and now it's in dictionaries.

This is how new forms of communication develop. Sometimes they're random images (images that'll probably be used for even more extensive tracking now), sometimes they're playful changes to language, sometimes they're intentionally invented or modified words because the language lacked a word for a given purpose, and if they catch on enough with enough people they'll become part of communication. Because brains and pattern matching.

“Comprehend” works, in British English at least.

It's more "fully comprehend all aspects". You could also say "get" or "understand" or "know" as synonyms for comprehend (in the right context).

Grok works in English, I've been reading it for, what, 20 years in English texts. It mightn't be in dictionaries but they're not the sole arbiters of language.

It comes from US English, AFAIK, a neonym from Heinlein (the sci-fi writer).

I believe it's in both Oxford and Merriam-Webster.

I use "grok" in my writing. Sometimes an older person (usually a boomer or Greatest Generation reader) doesn't get it. Usually the Gen X and younger people understand what it means. Anecdotal, FWIW...

I always just figured it was programmer speak and used it accordingly.

English speakers seem to have this weird idea that all people need to use language that everyone can understand.

Other languages tailor their speaking patterns given the class, context, and people around them.

Several subcultures adopted this word in the US decades ago, leading to it being commonly used by people who had never heard of the book.

How long before forms requesting personal data allow us to upload our own list of acceptable vocabulary to be used in our presence?

You could basically have this as an user-agent setting, so it just translates it down to the accepted language level of the reader.

Sounds beautifully dystopian.

I mean, the most obvious difference is that grok is actually in the dictionary. It's totally fair game compared to ST:TNG references. I don't use it in professional writing though, of course.


Or to put it another way, it is basically a reaction gif in word form.

.. and (as Michael explains on the book) it’s literal meaning in Martian is “drink”, or in other words “to make part of yourself”. It used to really annoy me when people used it to mean “understand”, but I’ve got over that now.

I think grok has escaped it's sci-fi niche now - I learned it as a vocab word in English class when I was in school over a decade ago.

I think that's (part of) the joke.

"To grok is to drink."

I don't disagree, but as an aside I think the references to that Star Trek episode (which I've been seeing a lot lately) is interesting. I find it amusingly ironic that the most effective way to describe the growing tendency to communicate mainly in cultural references is... a cultural reference.

Double irony points for using a Heinlein-ism in the post too.

It is an incredibly efficient way to communicate. Try it.

Hah, great anaology. Pretty crazy that 2chan/4chan popularized the reaction gif.

Chans have WebM support as well! Much better format in every way!

The only thing more HN than debating the usage patterns of reaction gifs is to... veer further into discussing the file format used to share them. At least today it’s topical!

and folders full of canned reaction images long before every board supported gifs....

and before that, plaintext emoticons... ಠ_ಠ

if only more system would leave my plain text emotes alone an not try to convert it to a emoji

desu desu desu desu desu

I the only time I need giphy is when there is no appropriate (custom) emoticon.

Giphy takes way too much space.

Also, why does Teams not have a :shrug: icon. Seriously?

If you're on Windows, windows key + period brings up the system-level emoji picker. Just thought I'd let you know in case you weren't aware there was even such a thing as a system-level emoji picker (I sure wasn't until someone on my team told me about it).

Unfortunately I’m on mac, but maybe I can just copy the emoji from a website and paste it. It didn’t occur to me it might get displayed correctly but not be selectable.

Sokath! His eyes uncovered! Temba, his arms wide.

I hear ya. I had to disable animations on gifs and emojis. I keep Slack on a workspace in my peripheral vision. The animations trigger some reptilian fight or flight part of my brain that kills my focus.

I got tired of collapsing them

Thank you, didn't know there's an option for that. I might give it a try.

Google spreadsheets (and maybe docs) insist on smoothly animating a black dot in the bottom right back and forth. It's in the exact spot of my peripheral vision to make me react as if it's a bug, every single time

How do you do this?

Settings -> Accessibility.

I don't mind the sentiment, but they're so visually distracting.

/collapse is your friend here.

Just turn them off my default, its easier to uncollapse if you need to see something.

How to choose a reaction gif:

1. Type a couple words relevant to the topic or your feelings on the topic into a gif search engine.

2. Pick whichever gif suits the context best.

3. Watch as everyone thinks you're super clever.


I mean, I get it. Most people just want funny pictures, and I love sharing memes with friends. But something about reaction gifs just boils my blood. I'm very, very bothered by them. If someone posts a relevant comment, or video: great. If there's something really clever about the reaction gif: good job. But most of the time it's just kind of related, and not really a discussion at all. Or worst of all, a "wow" "lol" or "wtf" expressing funny face.

I turn off all images and gifs in slack. Makes it much more usable.

Urgh I agree, I've seen people twice my age use them in presentations, it did not improve the presentation.

they ruin all flow of conversation and serve as distraction rather than substance. It's mindblowing to see some Discord and Slack channels just bombarded with fancy moving pictures. It's particularly worse when people won't use the "Thread" feature to contain reactions and sub-conversation to specific comments. It can result in lost information if people aren't careful, but it's almost always better than littering the feed with semi-relevant reaction gifs.


I use emojis a lot in Slack and texting. They can remove some accidental ambiguity in your writing, by making your intent clear. For example, the tongue out emoji can work to make sure people know you're being sarcastic.

Emojis can have ambiguity too. My friends and have been using the eye roll emoji to signal we're being sarcastic for about 10 years. The un-animated version of this emoji looks like "I'm not really thinking what I'm saying", especially on Discord/Twitter.

I've recently a colleague who used the tongue out emoji for sarcasm and the eye roll one for, well, eye rolling with disdain in reaction to something.

The first chat discussions were then quite awkward, because when I were to write something like "You should have tested your code before deploying it... :eyeroll:", he was thinking I was openly looking down on him in front of the team.

We had to have a real discussion about it. It made me tone down my use of emojis - and sarcasm. I suppose using animated emojis (they were in MSN I think?), or GIF reactions would have made the things clearer.

That really is interesting, because as far as I'm aware, I've only seen (and used) the eye roll emoji for, well, eye rolling. At least the iOS one also looks very disdainful to me. So if you had written "you should have tested this " to me, I would indeed have felt pretty bad about it. A more appropriate use would be something like "I walked all the way to there, but they turned me away because they bungled up my appointment ", i.e. something commiserate about. And based on my observation and recollection, I really don't think I'm in the minority here.

> My friends and have been using the eye roll emoji to signal we're being sarcastic for about 10 years.

But why would you assume this works for a random stranger? It seems much more logical to assume they’ll interpret the thing you’ve written as being said while actually rolling your eyes.

That said, it seems entirely appropriate to look down on someone that doesn’t test their code before deploying.

I think at some point you "forget" what some emoji really mean. I've kept my circle of friends quite small in the last couple decades, and we're all using this emoji for sarcasm. It's akin to private jokes, that crack you and your friends up every time, and then when you try one of those with other people, you're the only one laughing.

My other colleagues were not confused by my usage of the emoji, although they've known me for some time now, and they know that I'm not the type of person to actually roll my eyes while talking to someone, or even look down on them.

At least it was a nice reminder that our ways, customs and habits, no matter how normal they seem to ourselves, can still look crazy from the outside.

But I agree with you, it may have been one of the best sentence to use this emoji with. :)

I read this and immediately thought "Holy crap, you eye rolled at him with that comment?! I'd be devastated." Interesting how it works for different people.

Call me old school but I have to look up almost every single emoji. I find them frustrating /creepy

Most common ones in my environment are various forms of smiles. What do you see that means you have to look it up? (genuinely curious)

Use of emoji is the new “don’t trust anyone over 30”

I've come to appreciate emojis a lot for that reason. gifs, not so much - although the really good gifs go down well with me.

They can also be ambiguous. Some people think "high five" emojis are actually "prayer hands". Which convey wildly different reactions to something. Told your friend your Dad was diagnosed with cancer? high five

It's definitely a "praying" emoji, the whole high five thing is an urban myth.

The official spec[1] calls it "PERSON WITH FOLDED HANDS".. the keyword there is "person" (in contrast to, for example, "1FAC2;PEOPLE HUGGING" when there is multiple people). The emoji is of a single person folding their hands, which really isn't a high five unless you're somehow high five-ing yourself.


Never heard of it beign a high five before but it's hard to trust the reasoning that "PERSON" means singular, when the "FOLDED HANDS" aren't folded.

I've definitely confused the prayer emoji and thought it was a clapping emoji before. When someone else uses it, I just see the image, not the keyword associated with it.

I don't think there's a high five emoji. When I search it, I only get the praying/folded hands, and it says that it's rarely interpreted as a high five.


that's only ambiguous if you have no cultural understanding at all ...

The meme market agrees with you.

I’m even “uncooler” than you. I wrote a bot that denigrates employees for using gifs in slack.

And that persistent dancing parrot animated emoji.

Luckily the bot ended up doing more valuable things too, but the original design of the bot was purely for abusing the colleagues on my team.

And it had the intended effect, people still joke but slack is not pegging my CPU, rendering animated images anymore.

That would necessitate a separate bot which posts random gifs to your slack thread every hour on the hour ;-)

Have you ever been in a mostly white office and noticed how many reaction GIFs are of black people?

The term to Google here is “digital blackface”.

If you bring this to more people’s attention my guess is that reaction GIFs will become less prevalent in your office.

No, the term to Google here would be "misinterpreting inclusive cultural norms as appropriation".

One of these has 57,000 results and the other one has zero.

You kind of need to search without quotes, and you’ll get very appropriate results.

It is amazing the lengths people will go to find something to complain about.

Like… "other people using reaction GIFs".

We need a Godwin's law for things being described as "-ism".

or anything -esque.

Geez people find a new thing every day to get offended about. Amazing.

Sure, Jan

I don't think there's any solid evidence of disproportional use of of one ethnic group by another. You can certainly find individuals who thoughtlessly or deliberately do that but generalizing that to some random population (eg of office workers) is likely wrong.

I think that's just some form of confirmation bias you've formed, as I've never noticed that. I will say most of my offices have been multi-cultural, but even then, I've been on and led teams of white-only males that never succumbed to even posting these gifs. I guess guilting people into censoring their choices is a point of action, but I think the entire process should just be faded out. Slack admins don't need to allow these plugins. Theres nothing stopping people from literally going to giphy.com or whatever, but that's not why it's popular -- and it's definitely not why FB is shelling 400 million for it.

Digital blackface is not my idea, nor is it something I noticed. (I am white.) Someone else explained it to me. I was probably a bit skeptical that a funny GIF of Oprah could be linked to Jim Crow, but in the historical context of blackface there are some unavoidable similarities.

This is kind of the charm we like in our slack. We have preview turned off so you can't cycle through, you just get whichever one it picks. It can be amusing.

Omg! This was a setting change! Now I am mad at my admin See my other comment


That’s a great idea, haha. Giphy Roulette

Running `/giphy cardio sucks` on my work slack (thankfully just to Slackbot) yields a very NSFW result: https://giphy.com/gifs/old-school-bj-oldschool-111XK1CCmGNwI...

So... confirmed?

Very off topic, but scrolling through the link you posted was amusing, but one of giphy's entries was this: https://giphy.com/gifs/RwQYRsO7s9l6w

Which, I have to say, just made me feel a little sad and now I'm actually starting to consider how giphy's are made... David Finlayson is a world-class trombone player and to have his video reduced to those tags (and associated with that context) was startling. The original video is here, in case anyone is interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soDn2puEuL8

Did somebody edit the video to create that gif, or could that have been machine generated? Are human-made gifs actually a source for image tagging with context???

I would consider this "NSFW" but not "very NSFW"

NSFW depending on where you work at.

That's a huge part of it, and what makes a huge difference compared to discord where all you get is the gif. In slack, you see a random gif and the intended message, so a weird gif just adds fun. In discord you just get a gif, so the gif has to convey more, which is hard.

May be it is just me. The worry that typing /giphy without knowing whether I am doing the “I am feeling lucky” version or “let me choose” version and end up embarrassing myself has kept me away from..... well I guess embarrassing myself.

The charm of /giphy is that it returns seemingly random nonsensical results from whatever you type in.

I honestly thought Giphy was vyying for an acquisition from Slack that never materialized.

If you can’t fix it, feature it!

My theory on why they were successful is that they made it possible for "anyone" to quickly respond with a gif response. Responding that way had become "cool" but it was difficult or impossible for people who didn't hoard a stash of gifs.

This sort of solution "Make it easy for the rest of us" is a tried and true winner of traction for products.

Great summary! A blog post condensed into a perfect comment.


A friend of me added support for sending Giphy animations to a school project 2 years ago. He finished that in 2 or 3 hours. The API is basically give us 1 word and we give you givs / jif's / jivs / gif's idk. I atleast I understand why developers want to use it.

For users it can be useless because they do not seam to understand multiple words and they do not have localized memes, so they for example don't understand dutch words and they don't have dutch memes.

Do any of these services let you share your own gifs over slack?

Last time I tried: dragging in gifs (or mp4s or webps) resulted in an attachment, not an inline gif, giphy wanted money to upload your own gifs, and gfycat had some kind of slow and inconsistent review process so that your gifs don't show up in search (or in the slack plugin) for weeks to months after you upload them.

Couldn’t you just... drag the gif into Slack?

> dragging in gifs ... resulted in an attachment

I've never had this problem, and I do it all the time. It embeds just fine.

Non-animated GIFs embed just fine, if that's what you mean. I just tried animated again, and sure enough, attachment.

S3 bucket, FTP folder, imgur... for your custom gif's and then you can paste a URL and get animation. No frills.

If I paste a URL, I get a URL, not an embedded image. Then people have to click it to see the gif, and they don't, so it defeats the purpose.

That is a preference you disabled. By default URLs are expanded inline.

Copy and paste it into slack instead

Uhh.... that creates an attachment.

I'm begging to suspect that there's a setting, hidden size threshold, or something involved.

Could be a setting in your organization or something I guess. Uploading a gif works fine for me and it's animated.

Just typing /giphy <search term> is so easy though.

This is the kind of the issue Facebook will help sort out. On the other hand, they will collect a lot of data about trending topics/searches in a bid to sell/suggest more trendy ads to advertisers.

I would guess their success is due almost entirely to solving the licensing issues with the content, and doing so with such competence that major services want to work with them without fear of exposing themselves to liability.

I had a recruiter from Giphy pursue me pretty hard, and all I could think was there's no way I'm going to go to a company that won't be around in a year.

That sucks. Don’t beat yourself up. If it was the right decision at the time, it still is the right decision.

Finally! THIS, rightgif, is exactly what at least 90% of people wanting to use. But another commenter on this very thread mentioned they pretty much just did SEO. Arrgh, hate it.

Sorry, I don’t see the other comment. Are saying giphy or rightgif did SEO? You hate which?

Look for “SEO” in this same thread, it’s the only other comment mentioning it. I hate giphy.

They prioritized showing up on searches over really precisely tuned results. If you search for an animated gif on any image search GIPHY hits are the main ones. It's all about that SEO.

And then they manage to make it hard to actually post the gif you found via the search engine, so you end up using the giphy platform to do it.

Like Pinterest, I don't understand why they show up on image searches at all. They make it almost impossible to actually get at the image.

I was hyped when I read that there's a reasonable alternative with better search. Then I realized that they're exclusively on slack.

Do gifs really only happen on slack for y'all? That's the place I encounter them the least, and I think that's a good thing. On the other hand, a ton of other places are more suitable for gifs, and (even) less suitable for using a facebook service, so this really hurts right now.

Overall I'm quite sad to see how centralized freaking gif-sharing is, and that it's happenind mostly in walled gardens?!

> "I realized that they're exclusively on slack"

What do you mean? https://giphy.com/search/it-works works for me.

I meant rightgif, which the parent mentioned as an alternative.

The most ridiculous thing, I find, is that giphy on Slack prints your search term as well, so others can read it. That completely takes the fun out of the *.gif for me.

For me, seeing the original search term only increases the hilarity. It often leads to amusing juxtapositions between what the sender wanted to search and the gif they chose, or maybe they included an in-joke or excessively detailed description of something, etc.

That’s one of the main reasons I don’t use giphy on slack. I’m with you.

That's what happens when Joe Public sets the tags. There's nothing "smart" about giphy's search, it's just a tag match.

Thanks, never knew about rightgif. Their search is so good!

> I'll never fully understand why they're so successful short of just dominating the market through sheer popularity.

Sounds like a perfect match for Facebook :)

Second this.

The other day I wanted to send a pic of Naomi Scott from “Aladdin” to my colleagues, but I couldn’t get even a single decent one. There was just one in which she was turning around, but that was not even a second long, so no one would had figured out who she was anyways.

Contrast this to Tenor on WhatsApp and the results are much more satisfying.

Clearly this acquisition has nothing to do with either Facebook's or Giphy's businesses... Not sure you can even call Giphy a 'business' because that would imply that an attempt had been made at creating value.

Yeah I can never find the clip im looking for with Giphy, and if its even slightly controversial of edgy you can forget about it. I also turn gifs off on slack, its a waste of resources and the gifs are pretty lame anyways.

They are very very quick at creating integrations with other services and as a result they were able to push their brand alongside the growth of gifs these past 5-8 years.

The growth of gifs? Did gifs ever leave critical mass?

I agree. Whenever I search Giphy, unless it's already an extremely popular Gif, I just get terrible results, completely irrelevant to the search term.

Seeing what comes back is half the fun. I have more respect for coworkers who /giphy instead of posting a gif link :)

Acquisition seems to make sense then. Facebook can fix search easily with their tech and Giphy already has the reach.

Yep terrible product that made the internet worse. Wish Google bought them so we would know it will be shut down.

I've had a 100% opposite experience. Compared to /gif, /giphy is far superior in slack.

In my opinion, the big draw to Giphy is the massive volume of available gifs. Quantity over quality.

Rightgif looks great but sucks its not offered as an API and only as a slack bot

You need to lower your standards, lowering the bar is key to happines.

1/2 joking

Have you changed the settings to pg-13 or lower? You can!

they are way too censored, I get that theyre embedded in everything so not much if a choice but just garbage results from them

Congrats to Giphy, but honestly it baffles me they are worth this much money. Do they actually bring in decent revenue, or was this all about eyeballs? Is this content even decently monetizable?

Disclaimer: I am the jaded creator of Twicsy, a Twitter picture engine with many millions of visitors over its lifetime, and I apparently missed the boat on this trends and had to shut it down.

Read the privacy policy[1].

Think of Giphy images as a giant, organically shared version of web tracking software. Which complements the coverage of the FB Pixel[2] well, as it worms its way into privacy-conscious areas they might not have FB Pixel coverage such as private communications and security/privacy-minded apps. And without implementing something like a proxy server to pre-cache/sanitize images and strip tracking identifiers in both directions, it's a tracking vector that's hard to keep out of your app without introducing user friction.

Given that cynical viewpoint, the valuation makes a ton of sense.

[1] https://support.giphy.com/hc/en-us/articles/360032872931-GIP...

[2] https://www.facebook.com/business/help/742478679120153?id=12...

Woah, that's a great point. Imagine sharing a gif in Signal and still being tracked by Facebook because every person that loads it needs to first download it from FB servers.

It really is getting to the point that if you want privacy, don't touch anything owned by the top 5 tech companies. Better yet, only use Open Source. I never used to be a OSS only person, but the past few months I've started to go that way.

>Imagine sharing a gif in Signal and still being tracked by Facebook because every person that loads it needs to first download it from FB servers.

Signal's integration is specifically engineered to _not_ do this: https://signal.org/blog/signal-and-giphy-update/

From Giphy's end they can still so useful traffic analysis by generating a unique URL for the search result obtained by User A and subsequently sent to his chat cohort. Each cohort app retrieving the same URL could then be enumerated. It's not user-identifying but it would generate a sort of contact graph.

Also the Signal service could do a transparent TLS MitM between the app and Giphy instead of a passthrough TLS tunnel and the user apps would be unaware. In fact from that page I'm not sure they're even doing a tunnel anyway.

nice try, but this wouldn't work

> Given that cynical viewpoint

I wouldn't even call that cynical. It's just the state of things.

It absolutely is cynical. Just another "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."

While you aren't wrong, in this day and age it's not enough to simply pay. Even if you pay for something, you are still the product being sold. Why would a company leave money on the table, when violating people's privacy is profitable and there is no backlash?

It's not this day and age. Analytics and data mining of customers data is as old as business. 2000 years ago merchants were also tracking who's buying what, in what city, what time of the year, etc.

It's waaaaay more efficient nowadays and way more creepy, but it's not a new invention.


In a society which doesn't care enough and a legal system that doesn't punish unethical behaviour any company tapping unethical revenue streams in addition to the ethical ones will have a competitive advantage and given otherwise similar conditions eventually outperform ethical companies. Once a sole actor goes down that path it puts a lot of pressure on all other actors to throw ethics overboard as well as otherwise their company's survival and in extension their livelihood will be threatened. This is why we can't just rely on market forces sorting everything out, consumers making decision, etc. but have to actively legislate to protect our privacy and personal rights.

What you're describing with that quote isn't cynicism. Especially as far as FB is concerned. That is absolutely business as usual for them and has been for years.

"Cynical" usually implies an element of assuming the worst when such an assumption is far from certain. In this case I think the assumption is spot-on and not at all surprising.

Just because you've heard it before doesn't make it false. I hope your naivete represents a minority perspective.

Does the fact that it is integrated into iOS keyboard have any implications? WlWhat kind of data does this have access to when I send gifs from iOS keyboard?

iOS keyboards given “full access” in settings can see literally everything you type. That’s why I don’t use GBoard on my iPhone, also why I don’t enable “enhanced spellcheck” in Chrome.

Hmm, I guess I know why SwiftKey became free. Probably want to check on their privacy policy now

swiftykey (now owned by MSFT) is terrible as it is constantly trying to call back to microsoft services, even with all "personalization" disabled. I've got my phone locked down with multiple "blocks" I can see it constantly trying to phone home.

It's behavior is no different from Windows 10 telemetry. The keyboard does not even work if you disable one of the underlying telemetry services in the app (if you have a rooted device).

Google messenger (the default texting app) has a gif search that includes giphy, and Discord and slack also use giphy. What I don't see is what data FB is getting when the gif loads. OK, so they can see I am using giphy in Discord. Now what?

edit: apparently wrong/outdated information.

Hypothetically speaking, fb gets a request for an image for each person in a chat at roughly the same time. Now they know know what chat platform you're using and who is participating in the chat. I'd venture a guess those participant identities could be de-referenced with data collected from their various [other] trackers. Now they can extend their social graph to include communication patterns on 3rd party platforms.

I'm fairly sure this is False. GBoard uses Tenor (the next largest Giphy competitor), which Google also happens to have bought 2 years ago (undisclosed amount of money). I also just tested Messages and can confirm that the results look like Tenor too.

For Discord, while they initially used Giphy and has a /giphy command, it now uses Tenor too in the GIF picker.

The only difference with this acquisition and Discord is that Discord might now start proxying Giphy (they previously didn't to save bandwidth).

Again, Discord uses Tenor, not Giphy (unless you manually use /giphy instead of the GIF picker, which most people don't).

They can also see that you use Discord, as well as how often and how heavily. And potentially other facets that can be derived from whatever metadata is provided to Facebook in the course of serving that image request.

There's also all kinds of shenanigans that they can play in the process of serving that request to harvest other meta data and help fingerprint you. Which Giphy's privacy policy mentions is already done to an extent, in the form of dropping cookies while servicing your request. Cookie abuse itself is a bit of a losing battle, as browser vendors increasingly layer on limitations and restrictions for cookies. But they're far from the only method of fingerprinting possible during the servicing of a web request.

Not sure if the iOS keyboard uses Giphy. I get very different results searching for the same things in the keyboard and on the Giphy website.

proxy server to pre-cache/sanitize images and strip tracking identifiers in both directions

Developing such a tool might be valuable for privacy-conscious application developers.

Google already does it with Gmail[1][2], so it's not unheard of. But it adds another layer of complexity, plus is somewhat antithetical to the privacy viewpoint as it then exposes all of the images to the app developer now since it's routed through the proxy server instead of direct end-user -> image server requests.

[1] Can't find a page specifically detailing it, but [2] gives a basic synopsis on it in the context of allowing GSuite admins to whitelist internal domains from routing through the proxy.

[2] https://support.google.com/a/answer/3299041?hl=en

> it then exposes all of the images to the _app developer_

Not if the app developer proxies the encrypted traffic.

That way the app dev does not know the content and the third party does not know which original IP requested it.

This is akin to the Signal-Giphy implementation.

Keen analysis, thank you.

Paraphrasing: emojis serving as web bugs.


I'm still dubious. Giphy hit it's peak of power 2-3 years ago and has plateaued or even tapered since then. It was all over reddit and Slack for a while and then the novelty wore off and competitors popped up.

... which might be what made it cheap enough to be snapped up by Facebook. Who knows, maybe the valuation of giphy would have been much larger 2 to 3 years ago.

Acquisitions often happen after some value is lost from the company being acquired, like when Microsoft bought Nokia or when Yahoo bought Tumblr.

Won't that tracking capability be going away pretty soon?

Cookie-based tracking, sure. But there are plenty of other avenues for fingerprinting. This[1] help doc from Adobe Analytics even makes reference to a Subscriber ID header you can get mobile carriers to give you, if you get onto the carrier's whitelist. Nothing the vendors do device/browser-side to restrict tracking will help if your mobile carrier is transparently appending an identifying header to your request after it leaves your phone.

[1] https://docs.adobe.com/content/help/en/analytics/technotes/v...

This doesn't work for SSL enabled websites, right?

I don't know enough about TLS < 1.3. In TLS 1.3, the whole handshake on both sides is covered by the handshake completion --- if the client handshake was modified in the middle, the client will not accept the server handshake completion.

However, that doesn't stop carriers from inserting something at the start of the stream that the client doesn't see. It would need to be coordinated with the origin server, but that's already true for HTTP header insertion. Sending a pre-handshake blob to a TLS server that isn't expecting such a blob would fail hard though, rather than going on its merry way like an extra header usually would.

I'm really not certain, as I've never seen an implementation that involved it. There was a lot of stink about it 5 years ago[1], which called out the exact argument of it not working for HTTPS traffic. Which, is a substantially larger portion of traffic now than it was at the time.

But you still see nondescript references to the capability in places like that that up-to-date Adobe Analytics doc, and the carriers aren't trying to use legal means (a la lobbying) to slow down the uptick in HTTPS traffic and preserve their revenue stream. Which leads me to presume they've developed technical solutions that are compatible with HTTPS traffic. They can't really use the spray-and-pay method[2] they were using. But all bets are off when they destination site and the carriers are coordinating with each other, as that coordination can involve technical modifications to facilitate it in addition to just the whitelisting itself.

[1] https://www.ghacks.net/2015/08/31/are-mobile-carrier-injecte...

[2] Some carriers would inject a header into all traffic, and any interested party could slurp them up. But you'd have to pay the carrier to access any of the other information the carrier had for that particular identifier.

The other interesting thing about this one, is that they dont even attempt to license content do they? They dont have any content costs?

Theres been this fake (steal) it till you make it, wild west approach to growth. Youtube, Buzzfeed, Imgur. You just host anybodys content regardless of if the poster is the owner, and once you get to scale, then you handle copyright and creating your own content so you arent as dependent on external creators.

But in Giphys case, they never have to take the extra step. Because they are so short, they are much more likely to pass fair use, and they can just host anybodys anything, barring some illegal fringes, without having to pay for the rights.

GIPHY has agreements with pretty much all the major content studios, including ones historically protective of their content, such as HBO, the NFL and Disney.

I think the main problem is not movie studios (where fair use is likely to apply as we're talking about a 10-second GIF out of a 1h+ movie) but all the meme creators on Reddit and other social networks. I assume those make up the majority of GIFs out there and as of now they aren't being compensated or even credited properly.

This is an unpopular opinion, but if the meme creator violated copyright when they made the meme, and they want credit for their “derived version” then they need a license.

I disagree that they violated copyright. If they're using a screenshot or a short clip from a movie that is definitely fair use. On the other hand, what Giphy is doing is copying the entire meme.

What? That's absolutely not guaranteed to be fair use. AFAIK there's no precedent for such things. And even if random people making memes is fair use, Giphy would still be violating the copyright of the original media by hosting nearly unedited clips for commercial reasons. The vast, vast, vast majority of memes are not transformative.

What would be the infringement? I would say any animated GIF (or whatever) should be defined as fair use across the board, since it's impossible to use it for anything other than criticism or comment. It's not exactly like Beastie Boys vs. Chambers Bros, but it rhymes with it.

Isn’t there a gif of the entire first Shrek movie?

Perhaps, but that's clearly not covered by fair use. Posting the entire Shrek movie as a GIF is not creating a "new meme".

a heavily accelerated 49px by 49px gif seems okay

>GIPHY has agreements with pretty much all the major content studios, including ones historically protective of their content, such as HBO, the NFL and Disney.

Incredible. What a strange time we live in.

This makes me wonder, does Disney have any say if someone uploads a home-made Mickey gif that is controversial or otherwise damaging to their brand?

Facebook, Twitter and Google (YouTube) have used that strategy to ignore their obligations to filter their content by getting into some type of "too bug to fail" situation and throwing their hands up when they are asked to do their duty. Those products didn't fill a niche by innovating, they filled a niche by ignoring the obligations that were preventing others from filling the niche.

> Facebook, Twitter and Google (YouTube) have used that strategy to ignore their obligations to filter their content by getting into some type of "too bug to fail" situation and throwing their hands up when they are asked to do their duty

I don't think this is quite fair to YouTube. They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing ContentID. It's not perfect, but it's without a doubt the most sophisticated system to date. It's a difficult problem, but I don't see how you can say they've "thrown up their hands".

I thought the DMCA reporting system was basically made for Google (maybe by Google???) so they could have a middle-ground. They shift responsibility to content owners, through the law; then sell themselves as virtuous through ContentID and keep enough infringing content to not too deleteriously effect their platform -- collecting ad revenue even on content they allow that's infringing.

You can say what you like, but that's genius level politics-business IMO.

no their problem is that the DMCA system sucks as it wasn't even written this century (1998), so they created ContentID as a response. They do benefit from the way the system exists currently because of this since the cost of developing a competitor to ContentID is so seemingly prohibitively expensive that nobody else tries to do what YouTube does.

They built it after they got huge and were sued by Viacom and others.

I own and operate a flea market. I sell stall usage to merchants who sell their goods at the flea market.

Am I responsible when stolen goods are sold from my stalls?

I own and operate an RV park. Someone is selling illegal drugs from one of the RVs.

Am I responsible for the illegal drug sales?

> Am I responsible for the illegal drug sales?

You might not be liable for the sale itself but, depending on the details, you could definitely still have serious legal risk.


"Behind every great fortune is a crime."

Investors reward asking for forgiveness, not permission. Just ask Uber.

I wonder if it's similar to music, where you can play a short piece without compensating the artist? Since most gifs are <5 seconds, it's not content stealing.

it is still stealing[1].

fair use is an affirmative defense, where you say "yes i stole it, but the government should not protect the content owner from me," similar to "yes i injured them, but it was self defense and they do not deserve compensation."

[1]intellectual property violations are not theft in the strictest sense of the word, they don't remove the original. stealing in this context is colloquial.

Stealing is illegal, as is assault, and you are not convicted of assault in cases of self-defense. Similarly, calling fair use "government sanctioned stealing" is a bit of a stretch.

That's exactly what it is. Fair use is a government granted exception to intellectual protectionism. The government is the one determining what counts as intellectual property violations, and what counts as exempt from punishment.

Without intellectual property law, you would be free to copy anything. The barrier to copying is the government. The free pass to flaunt their rule, when qualified, is also the government.

I fail to see how this situation differs from the distinction between assault and self-defense.

assault and self defense were my analogy of something similar. im saying they are not different in kind. akin to self defense being government sanctioned murder.

Giphy has dozens of people who are paid to create gifs

I don't think fair use was meant to be something where you base your entire business around other people's content.

Business models have been created upon flimsier foundations. Come on, capitalists: you've taught us for decades that if someone can make it work, it's above criticism. Are we now discovering moral constraints on profit?

Maybe this is a win for everyone then if content owners and creators are able to get paid as a result

They're integrated into a lot of apps and maybe even apple's OS. In addition to those integration and business relationships they probably have some sort of data sharing / ad tech thingy that's worth some money on its own.

Makes sense because Whatsapp is a client.

I was surprised it it carried this kind of valuation too, but I think this is a matter of finding the right buyer. This isn't about revenue, it's another way for Facebook to harvest metrics, this time across competing products.

It's all about collecting user data and usage data. Not about serving images.

they do embed Ads into your gif searches... however, who knows what is happening to ad spend in these Covid times.

Last private raise - https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/31/giphy-the-platform-for-all...

- $600MM

- $150MM raised

- $400MM sale price

- $400MM - $150MM 1x preferred = $250MM (assuming not ratchet up for selling below last preferred price)

- $250MM net to shareholders.

- 50% for preferred investor share holders

- 25% to founders

- 25% to individual contributors

- 25% of $250MM = $62.5MM

These are all just estimates

That's not how simple preferred works. That would be participating preferred. And I'd strongly suspect this is simple preferred, as participating preferred is exceptionally rare for Silicon Valley-type companies (it does happen though).

Investors get either the 1x or convert to common. So the most recent investors will take their 1x ($72mm if public sources are correct, which might include some shares bought by previous investors), but previous investors are likely to convert to common if their price per share of purchase is below the acquisition price. But even in your simple example, the $250mm is only split between founders and team, the shareholders who take their 1x are done prior to that point.

So did the last round of investors lose 1/3rd of their investment (and after waiting four years, too)? Was this a fire sale?

No, usually investors stock is preferred with 1x liquidation preference. This means they get their money back, then the rest is split among other shareholders

Any idea what level/compensation FB is offering to Giphy engineers?

I wonder what happened to employees who joined later on, with underwater options.

Why would any of their options be underwater? Going off of those estimates above, the pot split between shareholders after liquidation preference is 250million. Anyone who has shares is able to cash them out I imagine (how much profit dependent on how many shares someone is granted, which varies obviously but is still a positive net) — unless you’re implying the strike price is less than the share value?

Their last round valued the company at $600MM, so anyone with options at that strike isn't going to make any money.

Only if 409A valuation was at referred price which it almost certainly wasn’t

Not much, I'd imagine. It'd be like getting FB stock options upon joining and having it drop in price when the stock market tanked in March. That's the point of stock.

Presumably they were accelerated/repurchased out for $0? Replaced by ... what exactly? As a giphy employee what do you get out of the acquisiton beyond maybe some job security?

With "later on" in this case being the past four years.

Every time Facebook is buying something I feel sad and imagine Facebook like the black plague that will swallow that normal organism.

The owners of giphy don't feel the same pangs I'm sure

And if they do I'm sure they'll have enough cash to dry their eyes with

I'm pretty sure there is a woody harrelson gif for that

giphy has a .gif of that

I mean, it worked out great for the Instagram guys, right?

Not just for the personal finances of the Instagram founders and team. The Instagram acquisition has been, as far as I can tell, a huge success for Facebook.


I can imagine an alternate 2020 where an independent Instagram is growing like a weed and the founders are much more wealthy.

Most people on this site couldn't imagine it back then:


Didn't work too well for the Whatsapp team ...

They will once they see what Facebook turns them into.

Immensely wealthy people? I'm sure those pangs are awful.

Why? They have a tendency to better products they acquire, look at whatsapp, instagram, oculus.

True, but they are, well...Facebook. Their stigma is just too strong to be forget/forgive overnight.

Don't put everyone in the same basket, I have no problems against them.

It's not like back when Yahoo would buy and immediately kill everything it touched.

It's a great match. They're both hype-mongering companies which add no value whatsoever to society.

FB has dramatically reduced ad spend waste. Not sure how anyone can call that valueless. Moreover, though you may be annoyed by your mother-in-law's minion memes, Facebook is a (free) vital communication tool for millions who are less privileged than you.

The facebook hate really just gets out of hand sometimes.

No one denies Facebook makes good products. It’s the egregious and intentional abuse of trust and privacy, with an act now and apologize later mentality that everyone hates. And rightfully so.

Am I out of touch? No, it's the 1.6B daily active users who are wrong.

Look at it as at a bad but addictive habit.

Hundreds of millions of smokers do harm their health, and through it their own and their neighbors' wealth. But quitting is indeed hard.

You can’t seriously compare smoking and keeping up with friends and family, which is the reason that drives most of the usage of Facebook.

You can’t seriously compare smoking and keeping up with friends and family

You must come from a nice family.

Some people don't. Some people are actively in hiding from their families and things like that.

Some schizophrenics go to in-patient treatment, get better, go home to their nutty relatives and get worse again. This is a known thing.

> You can’t seriously compare smoking and keeping up with friends and family

You're right: It's easy to smoke outside without harming anyone but yourself -- and even if you smoke indoors, you only harm one room full of people at a time.

No doubt that smoking is way worse than using Facebook. But using Facebook (and similar sites) can cause mental health issues which should be taken seriously.

I'd argue a gif sent to someone during a heated conversation can make it light and end up funny. This goes for anything that anyone uses. I wouldn't compare this with smoking though.

You know what else could have the same effect? the right set of words. those are untraceable and they take up little bandwidth.

Hmmm, 1.6B do what exactly? Scrolling mindlessly through algorithm-curated feed that ensure users always got the right amount to dopamine to keep them scrolling for hours? Look around you, people that glue to their screen all the time without realized they are being engineered to do what Facebook want them to do, is that really actually good for society?

Don't get me wrong, I use Facebook once in a while to keep in touch with my friends, and in rare occurrence I even feel "Damn, I'm thankful that Facebook exist" I can see the good in them, but the problem they cause to society cannot be denied. The witch hunt, the cyberbully, the echo chambers, the life's hilight showreel effect, the "do whatever in order to get the Like", etc. (Ugh, I need two A4 to list them all!) These problems may existed since the dawn of internet, but it is amplified by social media, and many of them pioneered by Facebook.

So... yeah.

I log into FB about once a day and see some pictures of friends who live far away and their children. Sometimes people post funny things. A couple of friends occasionally post interesting or thought provoking articles. My experience as a user is almost entirely positive.

Meanwhile at some level I know it can and is being used in abusive and bad ways. Cyber-bullying, sure. The ever-present outrage machine, pitting the God-loving Americans against the God-hating ones, certainly thrives there. And I once read something or other about enabling horrible hate crimes in Myanmar. And the company itself seems to be a scandal factory, bent on a kind of dystopian mission of collecting data on everyone.

I do struggle a bit with how much to blame the company versus, well, the people who are misusing it. I think a constant lesson of this whole internet thing has been: you can develop the most utterly amazing tools ever, but at least some of your users will take them and use them to be absolute shits.

A thing can have good aspects while being a net negative.

Agreed. This isn’t a whatsapp or an instagram, let Facebook eat it who cares.

This exactly. Kara Swisher's interview with Sarah Frier on how Instagram went really paints the picture. https://overcast.fm/+QLdurp-A8

That interview was bad. They're trying to make you feel bad for the Instagram founders because they were too stupid to realize that after you _sell_ your company you don't own it anymore. Also, per that interview, Instagram only became sustainable under Facebook.

Hard to feel bad about it.

> Instagram only became sustainable under Facebook.

That's an incredible leap to say IG couldn't develop their own ad network as a stand alone company. Hire a few people away from Google with options in a growing company the same way FB did.

If IG didn't sell they would have fully killed Facebook's relevancy by now.

Yeah, but the IG founders didn't want to put ads on the product at all. It was not a sustainable business while in their control.

Do you have a source that they refused any ads at all? There's a difference between having a few tasteful ones and overloading it like it currently is.

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