Hello, Giphy From Facebook. We Didn’t Need You

Anupam Chugh

Facebook acquires the internet’s most popular meme library and further aggravates its stance on data privacy

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Facebook recently announced that it’s acquiring Giphy, internet’s most popular service for searching, creating, and sharing animated images in a deal reportedly worth $400 million.

Given the fact that Giphy had neither monetized its services nor charged for the apps, this deal might seem like a huge win for them. But one might wonder why would Facebook pay a whopping $400 million for a GIF hosting library that hadn’t generated any decent revenue yet?

For the uninitiated, Giphy isn’t just a popular meme sharing platform. It’s the Google of GIFs and holds the largest online repository of animated images. So, the amount Facebook has invested isn’t huge considering the kind of user data they could access. Or rather, harvest.

Largely, Facebook could build two strategies around this acquisition. The first one is the obvious — seamless integration with Instagram and other Facebook-owned services. The second is actually more scandalous — getting a sneak peek into their competitor's data.

Giphy Powered Instagram Would Only Help Facebook Harvest More User Data

According to Facebook, before the acquisition, fifty percent of Giphy’s traffic already came from its family of apps, with half of that coming from Instagram alone. It’s no surprise that Giphy would primarily be working with Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app.

In recent years, Facebook has been increasingly shifting its focus from likes to reactions to better understand the user’s emotions and behavior patterns.

By owning GIFs, the most dominant form of expression on the internet today, Facebook will only be able to know more about you, what you’re thinking, your current mood, and serve customized ads accordingly.

Though Facebook claims to make searching GIFs and stickers in Instagram stories and direct messages easier, there’s little doubt that they won’t extend this into WhatsApp and Messenger to dig more user data.

Besides, a seamless Giphy integration and exclusive functionalities for Instagram would only give them an upper hand over Snapchat and TikTok, as the three of them are fighting for screen time.

Facebook Could Play Giphy As A Trojan Horse For Its Competitors

A lot of popular social media platforms like Twitter, Signal, Telegram, Bumble, Slack, and Apple’s own iMessage rely on Giphy’s API for providing shareable content.

Although Giphy is becoming a part of Facebook, Facebook has emphasized that it’s not planning to change Giphy’s core functionality and would only invest to make it better. But history shows us the social network giant has been at the forefront of data breaches and privacy scandals which makes its current stance hard to buy into.

While monetization through sponsored GIFs on rival platforms would bring a lot of flak and will be anti-competitive, Facebook might just play Giphy as a trojan horse to keep a check on its competitor's data. This wouldn’t be shocking either as the tech giant has absorbed data from its rivals in the past.

Also, it’s no mystery that the integration of Giphy’s API in third-party apps requires handing over the Client ID — a device tracking identifier that’s unique to your phone. This might seem scarier to Android users than iOS. Apple doesn’t let you access the unique device ID(it generates a unique key that’s different for every app on your phone).

Regardless, Giphy’s API has your keyword searches which Facebook could now leverage to determine emerging trends from most of its rival platforms. This would force its competitors to rethink their partnership with Giphy. The fact that Giphy now operates under Facebook might have already repelled some of them.

Closing Thoughts

Giphy is Facebook’s latest feather in the cap of an already growing internet empire. This acquisition is a coy move but wouldn’t be devoid of scrutiny.

The tech giant is already under investigation by federal and state lawmakers for antitrust and the privacy concerns that’ll arise due to “Giphy From Facebook” would only add more fuel to the fire.

A GIF consists of a dozen images and an image is worth a thousand words. Without typing a word, Facebook would now find a lot more about you through GIFs — its latest data collection tool.

This story was originally published on The Big Tech.

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