Monday, May 18, 2020

Facebook to Buy Giphy

Axios (via Hacker News):

Facebook has agreed to buy Giphy, the popular platform of sharable animated images, Axios has learned from multiple sources. The total deal value is around $400 million.


Giphy is a massive video library, with hundreds of millions of daily users that share billions of GIFs, that generates revenue via branded content.

Vishal Shah:

GIPHY, a leader in visual expression and creation, is joining the Facebook company today as part of the Instagram team.


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.

John Gruber:

Of course Giphy is going to retain its own brand. If they renamed it to “Facebook Tracking Pixels”, usage might drop off.

Owen Williams (via Will Oremus):

GIF search engines like Giphy have become a core part of how we collectively discover and share animated images. Giphy’s tools can be found embedded in apps from Slack to Signal, allowing users to instantly find the right GIF to reflect the moment. All told, Giphy has some 300 million active users every day across those platforms.


What might not be obvious, however, is that each search and GIF you send with Giphy is also a “beacon” that allows the company to track how and where the image is being shared, as well as the sentiment the image expresses. Giphy wraps each of its animated GIFs in a special format that helps the image load faster, and also embeds a tiny piece of Javascript that lets the company know where the image is being loaded, as well as a tracking identifier that helps follow your browsing across the web.

When embedded into third-party apps, Giphy can track each keystroke that’s searched using Giphy tools. Developers who install Giphy tools into their apps are required to give the service access to the device’s tracking ID.

Moxie Marlinspike:

Now that Giphy has been acquired by FB, many have reached out to ask whether we should be concerned about Giphy search in Signal.

Signal already uses a privacy preserving approach to prevent gif search providers from receiving user data[…]

John Gruber:

I believe this is basically how Apple’s Giphy search in Messages on iOS (through the built-in “#images” app) works.

Slack VP Brian Elliott (quoted by John Gruber):

Giphy doesn’t receive any information about users or even companies using the Giphy for Slack integration, and only sees Slack usage of the Giphy API in aggregate.

See also: Nick Heer.

Update (2020-05-19): Matt Haughey:

I was surprised since I participated in their early investing experiment, through Alphaworks, but never got any emails about this. In July of 2014, I invested the minimum, $2,500 in GiPHY. I want to show you investments rarely pan out in this thread[…]

Update (2020-05-22): Josh Constine (tweet):

GIPHY could let it learn about what apps are growing quickly (increased GIPHY searches), what types of content or influencers it might want to add to Watch or its Live streaming deals (what’s searched for), what visual media is most appealing (which GIFs get picked), and possibly tie this interest data to users’ identity (since developers have to send device Tracking IDs to GIPHY).


But then I got a very different perspective from an animation startup founder and GIF maker who’s been waging a campaign against the startup for years, accusing GIPHY of piracy.


For years, multiple sources say GIPHY would scrape Tumblr GIFs, rename the files as giphy.gif, and make them available with no attribution. Later it encouraged artists to claim profiles of their GIFs. But it’s still tough for an end user to find out who made the GIF they just tweeted.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

How does “Developers who install Giphy tools into their apps are required to give the service access to the device’s tracking ID” mesh with “Signal already uses a privacy preserving approach to prevent gif search providers from receiving user data”. If Signal simply acts as a VPN for the HTTPS TCP stream from the device, then doesn't the API still include the device tracking ID (whatever that might be)?

@Peter I was wondering that, too. My guess is that they have an agreement where they can use the API without the SDK and its requirements.

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