Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

With Acquisition of Giphy, Facebook Buys Tracking in Unexpected Places

Dan Primack, Kia Kokalitcheva, and Sara Fischer, Axios:

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.

Vishal Shah of Facebook:

We’ve used GIPHY’s API for years, not just in Instagram, but in the Facebook app, Messenger and WhatsApp. GIPHY will continue to operate its library (including its global content collection), and we’re looking forward to investing further in its technology and relationships with content and API partners. People will still be able to upload GIFs; developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY’s APIs; and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content.

Isn’t it nice how Facebook will continue to allow current API users access to Giphy? Sure is a sly way of admitting why they bought the company, isn’t it?

Vivek Karuturi:

Giphy extends FB’s visibility into 3rd party applications across the internet (a capability they’ve been building out through various acquisitions like Onavo VPN, etc)

With Onavo, FB saw WhatsApp’s message rates climbing at 2x Messenger’s rate. They acquired soon after.

With this type of tech, FB can keep a watchful eye on what’s picking up buzz and gives them ample time to react / understand what’s going on at the ecosystem level.

Bonus perk that this activity looks completely innocuous from the outside (politically, to regulators, etc).

“React or understand” is a great euphemism for “acquire or copy”.

Steve Kovach:

Does anyone know if Apple uses Giphy for iMessage GIFs? Unclear where Apple sources that library from.

Kovach appears to be referring to Apple’s stock “#images” app. It sources GIFs from multiple sources — Gfycat, Gif Keyboard, and Giphy as well.

William Turton:

My first thought: there is now a Facebook product built into Signal.

Moxie Marlinspike, creator of Signal:

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

Giphy has integrations with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zendesk — nothing says “customer support” like replying to a bug report with a tepid GIF — Mailchimp, Twitter, Bumble, Tinder, Snapchat, and TikTok. Just imagine the fountain of usage data they will be able to glean from all of those competitors.

The old axiom of consumer protest is to “vote with your wallet”, but that snappy advice doesn’t work for infrastructural companies — and Facebook is rapidly becoming one of those. Even if you don’t use any of its products and have deleted Giphy after today’s acquisition, it’s still gathering tracking data on you. Also, many people you know have probably uploaded your contact details to their services.

All of this — the vast trove of data collected by a surveillance dragnet ensnaring virtually every internet-connected person on Earth, and the software processing it written by brilliant engineers — is to make advertising slightly more relevant and, therefore, maybe enrich Facebook’s investors. Facebook truly is changing the world.