GIFs Are Losing Their Popularity as Gen-Z Say They Are ‘Cringe’ and ‘for Boomers’

The generational divide threatens the future of GIPHY, the largest search engine for GIFs, as it seeks approval for a $400m takeover by Facebook owner Meta.

The existence of Giphy, a tech company, is in jeopardy as it seeks clearance for the $400 million acquisition by the Facebook owner, Meta.

Giphy has fired a shot at its own product, alleging that it’s “out of fashion” as a type of content and that young users particularly describe gifs are “for boomers” and “cringe.” The company that allows users to upload animated videos and images argued that gifs are “finding less value” among content producers and reported a decline in uploads over the past two years. Giphy argued that Meta was the only firm that would actually purchase it.

The gif database commented on the declining popularity in filings with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is attempting to stop Meta’s $400 million buyout of the company.


No revenue-generating business

Giphy Company asserted that it has “no real revenue-generating business” and would work with a buyer with a user base and the ability to make money from gifs.

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Soldier playing with a cat.gif by Vikingsy for Funny Cats Gifs under CC BY-SA 4.0

 Its capitalization has dropped by $200 million from its peak in 2016. More importantly, its primary product appears to be outdated.

“Evidence revealed an overall reduction in gif use,” the company said in its submission with the UK competition watchdog in August. “This is because users’ and content partners’ interest in gifs has generally declined.”


Gifs are dated

According to Ryan Broderick, an online culture reporter, the generational gap is genuine. Gifts seem incredibly antiquated. They weren’t always simple to make and weren’t mobile-friendly. They are now essentially the cringe-inducing Slack image that your millennial employer uses. Rather than what they once were, a distributed picture type for online forums and blogs. Actually, it’s sort of sad how the gif was suppressed by big businesses, copyright regulations, and mobile browsers.

The first gif uploaded to the internet by GIPHY

The animated gif is pleasantly millennial

Giphy was created in 1989 before social media, smartphones, and even the World Wide Web. It gained enormous popularity as the simplest way to add motion to a website, along with the development of the web. However, it gradually fell behind other methods of showing images because they used less of the available bandwidth at the time.

Giphy was revived in the 2010s, thanks to Tumblr

At the start of the 2010s, Giphy made a comeback along with the expansion of the social network Tumblr. Even while they were never meant to take the place of video, better internet connections meant that sharing small clips was once again made simple by gifs. They are too brief to be meaningful on their own, but they are ideal for “response gif” posts that give context and color.


Reaction gifs were made popular by Tumblr blogs, like What Should We Call Me, which collated perfect replies to any circumstance. The style quickly became a byword with the format itself.

Why type “OMG” in response to a post when you can share a little video of Donald Glover from the sitcom Community entering a burning room while carrying a stack of pizzas?

At the peak of its civilizing influence, making, sharing, and curating gifs could have easily turned into a full-time career. The best content creators were noted for their abilities to quickly extract shareable moments from TV broadcasts or live events as they were broadcasting and for manipulating the format to maintain a high frame rate and a small file size.


Getting the right gif to use in any situation was challenging

Most dedicated posters maintained sizable, meticulously organized, and categorized libraries of their most-used gifs.

But for many people, finding the precise one to utilize in whatever circumstance was tedious.

When it was established in 2013, Giphy addressed that issue. The business created a “search engine for gifs” by compiling more than 300,000 from various websites, categorizing and labeling them, and assisting users in finding the ideal one for any given circumstance.


Giphy’s co-founder Jace Cooke said in a 2013 interview with the Daily Dot, “Giphy was an idea conceived over breakfast with my partner on the project, Alex Chung, while considering developing a solely visual communication. We both thought we could fix the problem because it was difficult to discover and distribute gifs today.”

Alex Chung, Giphy @ SXSW 2016 by  Ståle Grut / nrkbeta under CC BY-SA 2.0

But democratizing gifs also sowed the seeds of their demise. Internet culture writer Brian Feldman stated in 2020 that “whether by purpose or intent, Giphy’s search features led to a striking uniformity in gif culture.”

“The same rules that govern Google seem applicable to Giphy. If you’re not listed in the top three search results, you might as well not exist. Reaction gifs became flattened and less diverse.”


Technical advancements made the issue worse

The identical factors that caused the gif to crash the first time were still present. The technology produces enormous files with subpar image quality.

While platforms like Twitter and Facebook already support sharing gifs, they have also converted them into video files to improve their usability on mobile devices. The inability of users to download a gif they liked and store it for later use further flattened the selection.


Giphy ran into the copyright issue at the point where analysts at GrowJo estimated its yearly revenue to be $27.5m.


In response, the company collaborated with media sources to host original gifs. As a result, nine of the top ten gifs on the website in 2021 were uploaded there by the company that created them.

Could retaining key content partners be an issue?

Giphy cites “its ability to maintain major content partners” as a primary justification for the CMA’s approval of the Meta acquisition. The company argued that a less reputable owner might endanger the relationships.

Gif has also outgrown Giphy

Although not all Gif keyboards in apps like WhatsApp and Twitter use the service, they all have the same goal of making it simpler for consumers to communicate the little shareable films to one another. And yes, boomers are included in that.


Featured image credit: 2019 – ContentMakers – Day 2 SAM 5480 by Web Summit underCC BY 2.0