Facebook has seen its fair share of controversies in recent years; from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to failing to stem misinformation on it's platform. Despite this the social media firm, who boasts a net worth of $657.49 billion, has continued their aim of social media domination by purchasing the popular gif hosting and creation site Giphy. Announced on the Facebook blog on 15th May 2020, this may seem like just another business transaction, but to many in the industry it is creating waves as Facebook begins to command a large portion of the market. Back in 2012 Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion, shortly after this Whatsapp joined the family. By 2018 this meant that Facebook owned the top 4 most download apps and a host of other technology firms resulting in a huge monopoly.
So what does the $400 million acquisition of Giphy mean for its users, and for other technology firms that integrate with it? At the moment Giphy integrates with a wide range of systems using its API (it is even integrated in the Page Editor of the WebBoss System). While Facebook's announcement suggests that Giphy should continue to work as it currently does, and there are plans for even better integration with Instagram to allow users to find and use gifs in their posts more intuitively. As approximately half of all of Giphy's traffic comes from Facebook owned apps, this should bode well for the app users as better integration can only improve the service provided.
However, companies in direct competition with Facebook are more than a little weary of the new owners. It is common practice for online businesses such as social media platforms, software developers and even just website owners to track the way that people use their platform. This provides useful data that can be used to improve the service that they provide, and it is this that is the cause for concern for Facebook's competitors such as Twitter, Snapchat and Reddit. As Giphy is already integrated within their software, it is possible that Facebook would then have access to this data and could use it to to their advantage. As Facebook has been accused of copying features from rivals before this idea isn't even that far fetched. There have even been calls already to delete Giphy as users worry how this data may be used. While Giphy CTO Randy Shepherd may have reassured users that all data is completely anonymous “and there is no way for Giphy to personally identify any users via search behaviour on other platforms”, when you also consider that Facebook is the subject of ongoing investigations to decide whether it's business practices qualify as anti-competitive, the jury is still out on the security of users data.
So while this is unlikely to affect users in the short term, it will be a fascinating transition to watch unfold, as the long term effects are still vastly unknown. With Facebook's history of questionable data handling and an increasingly large hold on the internet and technology industry, it will be interesting to see how the social media giant utilises Giphy and how it's competitors react.