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Facebook to acquire popular GIF platform GIPHY

GIPHY will become part of Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook.
Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose
Facebook's F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, in April 2019.Stephen Lam / Reuters file

Facebook announced Friday that it has agreed to buy the popular GIF platform GIPHY.

GIPHY will become part of Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook, the company said. The acquisition was first reported by Axios.

Facebook is paying about $400 million for the company, according to two people familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the acquisition.

"GIPHY, a leader in visual expression and creation, is joining the Facebook company today as part of the Instagram team," Vishal Shah, vice president of product for Instagram wrote in a blog post. "GIPHY makes everyday conversations more entertaining, and so we plan to further integrate their GIF library into Instagram and our other apps so that people can find just the right way to express themselves."

Facebook and GIPHY had been discussing an acquisition for years, the people familiar with the matter said. The most recent talks began before the pandemic when GIPHY, which was losing money, reached out.

Shah wrote that GIPHY would still be able to work with partners outside of Facebook.

"People will still be able to upload GIFs; developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY’s APIs; and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content," Shah wrote.

GIPHY was founded in New York in 2013 and has emerged as one of the most popular places for people to create and find GIFs, short and usually repeating video clips that have become a form of internet shorthand for expressing everything from emotions to reactions, a particularly popular genre of GIFs.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a private message that he looks forward to working with the company.

“I’m a big fan of how creative and scrappy GIPHY is, we all are here," Mosseri said. "So we're excited to bring them on board to complement the work we're doing around expression. It’s a natural fit.”

The GIPHY deal is one of Facebook's most high-profile consumer-facing acquisitions in years. The social media giant has been aggressive in acquiring companies that compete with aspects of its business. It bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion.

GIPHY's valuation has dropped significantly in recent years. It was valued at $600 million in 2016 after raising $72 million in venture capital, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company raised a total of $150 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, which tracks startups.

Facebook's acquisition comes amid antitrust investigations in Washington into big tech firms. Some lawmakers have also accused Facebook and Google of being too powerful and called for undoing some of their previous mergers and acquisitions.

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed those efforts, and it's not clear whether Washington would have the capacity to review the GIPHY acquisition at this time.