Giphy's New View Count Tool Will Make Reaction GIFs More Bland
Something I like is popular now, and that is bad. Thanks to GIF databases like
, the reaction GIF, once a careful and elaborate art form, is now a bland mass market dominated by a handful of outlet-approved celebrity faces. Today Giphy sped up the medium's slide into mediocrity by
adding view counts to GIFs from "from an official Artist or Partner."
The very concept of an official GIF encapsulates the corporate
An official GIF is counter to the spirit of the GIF. It's not a tool of expression but of marketing. Technically, it's not even a GIF any more-on Twitter and Facebook,
Until recently, if you wanted to post an animated GIF online, you had to find (or create) and upload it yourself. You might save your favorites in a local GIF folder, or remember intricate search terms for dredging them up on Google Images.
But in 2013 Facebook and Twitter both added native Giphy support, encouraging users to search a term and use Giphy's results, or just select from default categories like "Eww" and "Applause." Now everyone is three clicks away from pasting a rapid loop of Shia LaBeouf, a stale GIF with the flavor of a store-brand saltine.
Partnering with Giphy also gives a lot of power to Giphy, which has a clear profit motive to favor brand-friendly GIFs.
Today, for example, Giphy featured GIFs from MTV's VMAs, filling its front page with "official" GIFs boasting 6- or 7-digit view counts. This isn't so terrible! The VMAs are a very popular television event and people like to share moments from them. This is a sensible and useful partnership.
It's just that next time you look for a GIF to express disgust or approval, Giphy has a financial incentive to show you those VMA GIFs, to prove to MTV that this partnership was worth it. So they'll push you toward these payola GIFs, and your search experience will turn into an ad session without you even knowing, and you'll be brought into the warm, tight embrace of monoculture.
Giphy is still an excellent promoter of GIF culture in general. You can upload GIFs from any source , or create them from a video file or YouTube clip. These are fantastic tools that keep the mad world of GIFs churning, but the flip side is that hosting all our GIFs on one official outlet renders them all subject to that outlet's motives and weaknesses.
We recently saw the dangers of centralized communication when
Facebook was caught protecting hate speech
and punishing critics of government.
Twitter regularly fights government subpoenas
regarding anonymous accounts.
But day to day, Giphy just makes GIFs boring. When everyone selects the same default options and posts the same embed of Katy Perry's face with three clicks, the internet is dull to look at. So try searching elsewhere for your GIFs. On Google Images, click Tools, Type, and Animated . See what's new in Tumblr GIFs . Try search terms other than the Giphy defaults. Dig through /r/GIFs , /r/GIF , and /r/ReactionGIFs and save your favorites, or find forums that fit your own tastes. Find something you don't recognize from an NBC sitcom. Maybe even learn to roll your own in Photoshop. Whatever you do, find the most specific and surprising GIFs you can. Don't settle for the same reaction face that everyone else is using.