Reviewed February 2015
Mark Robison, First-Year Experience Librarian
Launched in 2013, Giphy serves a dual role as a GIF search engine and a forum where GIF artists can share their work. According to a 2013 interview with Mashable, its founders hoped Giphy would do for animations what YouTube had done for online videos.
Named one of PCMag.com’s Top 100 Websites of 2013, Giphy has made great strides towards making the GIF a more respected and useable form of expression.
In its role as a search engine, Giphy crawls the web looking for high quality, popular GIFs. Using the files’ native metadata and adding site-specific tags, Giphy makes these GIFs discoverable through its search feature.
Alternatively, users may browse GIFs by the kinds of categories that users have come to love, including animals, celebrities, memes, and reactions. Giphy offers a separate category for GIFs with transparent backgrounds—known as "stickers"—which can be added to other content more seamlessly. Herein lies the site's primary added value: it brings a useful system of organization—through both automated and human metadata creation—to the myriad GIFs on the web.
Giphy also enables content creators to share their GIFs. Users can easily create an account, upload their GIFs (as well as a few video file types), and add tags and captions. Uploaded files are assigned a stable URL, and Giphy gives users the embed codes and tools for sharing their work on social media platforms. Giphy keeps GIFs private, so it is up to the user to promote the content they upload.
The site is notable for its compatibility with social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Typically, animations cannot be inserted directly into a post; in this regard, Giphy is the exception.
Additionally, Giphy’s Artist Spotlight provides curated content produced by official Giphy artists. Giphy’s focus on the needs of content creators is one of many aspects that set it apart from other GIF-centric sites and apps.
Both access to the site and account creation are free. Accounts are only needed if a user wants to upload content; browsing and searching can be done anonymously. Giphy’s interface is intuitive and visually pleasing, designed with a prominent global navigation bar and a black and neon color scheme. While it does not offer a native mobile app, Giphy’s mobile site is sleek and robust, losing none of the functionality found on its desktop site.
Giphy’s main drawback is the potentially confusing nature of what might be considered its “extras.” One section of the site lists Giphy’s corporate partnerships, whose brands it helps to promote. The site also has a Labs section, which highlights Giphy’s various extensions, plugins, API documentation, and other content that is more specialized than what the average user will have an interest in. To its credit, Giphy makes an effort to bury these extras so as not to distract users who just want to find and share GIFs.
With the attention being paid to the role of the academy in preparing students not only to consume information but also to create and remix their own, it is important for librarians to be familiar with the tools available to our users. In an age of abundant digital content—especially of the user-generated variety—librarians can easily feel behind the curve as to what is trending. Because of its vast content and responsive system of organization, Giphy is on its way to becoming the definitive discovery resource for GIFs. It is highly recommended for anyone looking to enhance their digital projects with the power of animation.