2 min read

The Death of GIFs

Gifs are one of the few truly digital-native media formats and obviously have been influential in shaping digital communication.

It was pretty monumental when Facebook acquired Giphy (one of the first search engines for gifs) in 2020 for a reported $400M. Shortly thereafter, a UK watchdog ordered Facebook to sell the company due to competition concerns. Two years later, it’s still a concern. However, Giphy’s valuation has fallen by $200M, citing that gifs are dying.

“There are indications of an overall decline in gif use,” the company said in its filing, “due to a general waning of user and content partner interest in gifs. “They have fallen out of fashion as a content form, with younger users in particular describing gifs as ‘for boomers’ and ‘cringe’.” – The Guardian

Even though Gen Z clearly isn’t here for the gifs, they are bringing new life to the emoji and defining many new meanings for emojis. The Future Party calls it “algospeak” as it is used to bypass algorithmic detection of sensitive or banned material.

  • Emojis: the “crab” emoji (to denote an “eye roll” or “crabby response” to the death of Queen Elizabeth), the “ninja” emoji (to denote derogatory speech about the Black community), and “corn” emoji (to denote pornographic material).
  • Codewords: the word “camping” (to talk about abortion), the word “unalive” (to post about casualties in the Ukraine-Russia war), and any numerical references to 6/4 (the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre).
  • Misspelled words: people use an “$” for an “s” or a “0” for an “o,” or say the word “seggsual” in place of “sexual.”

On the flip side, Gen Z is also canceling the thumbs-up emoji and about nine others (including the OK sign, loudly crying face, and others). By canceling, we mean they just see these specific emojis as inherently old and out-of-touch. So they don’t use them as their older counterparts do.

It’s fascinating to think about how vernacular and communication have changed because of technology. And this ultimately impacts how we communicate in professional settings.

Millennials grew up sending SMS texts and naturally made chat apps like Slack a major part of workplace communication. Gen Z has grown up with Snapchat and TikTok, so it’ll be interesting to see what type of changes they bring to the structure of workplace comms.

Within the next 10 years or so we will have employee handbooks and training manuals incorporating this new emoji speak.