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Takeaways from Collision, Part 3: The Internet Gets Emotional

By Mario Van Gastel
June 30, 2016

After exploring the culture clash between data and creativity in our second takeaway from Collision, here is the final in a three-part series of notes from “the anti-CES” (USA Today).

The Internet Gets Emotional

Alex Chung, founder and CEO of GIF paradise GIPHY, could have easily been included under the first takeaway in this series. However, his heartfelt appeal for a more humanistic internet deserves its own shout-out. A philosophy major in college, Chung explained that GIPHY originated from a nerdy bar conversation on the limitations of language and, eventually, the potential of GIFs as the start of a new visual language.

Serendipitously, Google hadn’t indexed GIFs yet, allowing GIPHY to fill the gap. Serving billions of GIFs per day, Chung asserted that GIPHY is probably one of the largest media providers in the world – one that nobody really knows about yet. (Keep in mind that Facebook only just adopted GIFs in the past year, and Twitter and Tinder only this past March.) About 80% of all GIFs are related to TV, movies and celebrities, paving the way for licensing deals with major studios and producers. For example, GIPHY creates the official Game of Thrones GIFs.

For Chung, however, GIPHY fills more than a media or a business gap. Echoing the concerns of several other Collision speakers, Chung equated Google to a robot without human feelings, controlling its users’ information. The emotion and expression used to create that information gets lost in Google’s algorithmic translation. GIPHY answers the question: “What would the search engine be for everything outside Google’s library?”

Like with any language, as GIFs become mainstream, increased fluency will result in an increased ability to express more complex emotions: “Every still image on the Internet will eventually be a moving image.” And that, according to Chung, will make the Internet a different place, more representative of the real world. The explosive growth of Snapchat certainly seems to suggest that Chung is on to something. Marketers should take note.

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