Remarkable People

Alex Chung: GIPHY has become the world’s #2 search engine

Alex Chung: GIPHY has become t...
GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung celebrated his company's ascent to being the second-largest search engine in the world
GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung celebrated his company's ascent to being the second-largest search engine in the world
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GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung celebrated his company's ascent to being the second-largest search engine in the world
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GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung celebrated his company's ascent to being the second-largest search engine in the world
The "Marketplace of Ideas" panel at WCIT Yerevan 2019. Left to right: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung, Picsart founder Hovhannes Avoyan, celebrity famous person Kim Kardashian, and moderator Magdalena Yesil
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The "Marketplace of Ideas" panel at WCIT Yerevan 2019. Left to right: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung, Picsart founder Hovhannes Avoyan, celebrity famous person Kim Kardashian, and moderator Magdalena Yesil
Can you give us a cheesy wave, Alex, so we can GIF you?
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Can you give us a cheesy wave, Alex, so we can GIF you?
C'mon, Alex, you got this!
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C'mon, Alex, you got this!

The second biggest search engine in the world isn’t about words or information, it’s about body language and emotional expression, and you’re probably using it daily without realizing it.

At WCIT 2019 in Yerevan, Armenia, GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung announced that his well-known GIF search engine is now trailing only Google in total searches.

Speaking in a “marketplace of ideas” panel alongside Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and celebrity famous person Kim Kardashian, Chung spoke about GIPHY’s unique angle on communication.

“GIPHY started out as just a project I did for my friends,” said Chung. “It started from a weird philosophical conversation about language, and how we only have a few words for love in each language, and maybe a few emojis. But there’s a million different ways to express love. And there was no way to send, or communicate those types of expressions to other people.

The "Marketplace of Ideas" panel at WCIT Yerevan 2019. Left to right: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung, Picsart founder Hovhannes Avoyan, celebrity famous person Kim Kardashian, and moderator Magdalena Yesil
The "Marketplace of Ideas" panel at WCIT Yerevan 2019. Left to right: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, GIPHY co-founder Alex Chung, Picsart founder Hovhannes Avoyan, celebrity famous person Kim Kardashian, and moderator Magdalena Yesil

“So we came up with this idea of an expression search engine. Some way to catalog all the expressions of the world, so that if you’re trying to communicate love, you have a vast array of different kinds of love you can send to your friends or family. Words just sometimes aren’t enough, especially in cross-cultural situations.”

The entire visual arts industry has spent more than a century developing the art of visual emotional communication to the utmost degree, so GIPHY set about licensing content from every source it could think of.

“We have every sports league,” Chung told us in an interview afterwards, “NFL, NBA, FIFA… We have all the movie studios. We have Disney, Warner Brothers, all the TV studios. We have all the record labels, we have every celebrity known to man… We’ve been good stewards of content. People trust us. We serve 10 billion images a day. It gives an entire new life to that content.”

Recently GIPHY has even begun working with major events to clip content live as it happens to the GIPHY system, meaning that when Tom Brady scores a touchdown in the superbowl, the conversation and sharing around that moment can start in real time.

“The whole goal from the beginning was to see if we could compete with Google for search," says Chung. “Not by organizing the world’s information, but by organizing the world’s expression and culture. That was the goal, and now, after seven years, we’re the second-largest search engine in the world.”

It’s GIPHY you’re interacting with every time you search for GIFs on iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, among others.

There’s a real art to finding just the right GIF to express your feeling in the moment – but GIPHY’s rampant success shows that Alex and his company have done an amazing job taking digital communication to a non-verbal place where nobody else saw an opportunity.

We asked Chung if he could give us a cheesy wave, so he could emotionally express himself in this article in GIF form. Here was his initial response, which speaks volumes about the power of body language:

Can you give us a cheesy wave, Alex, so we can GIF you?
Can you give us a cheesy wave, Alex, so we can GIF you?

Pressed further, he was able to muster this for you, dear readers:

C'mon, Alex, you got this!
C'mon, Alex, you got this!

Source: WCIT Yerevan 2019

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