Giphy wants to rule the world of GIFs, and what better way than tapping directly into a phone’s core function? The GIF search engine and creator released Tuesday Giphy Keys, a new iPhone keyboard that lets users easily share cats with lasers shooting out of their lying eyes in any app.
That means users can now download the Giphy Keys app, allow permission for the app in the keyboard settings and have it pop up in any application they choose. The new feature reduces the steps for going from a text conversation to the Giphy app or searching online for a particular image or GIF to share.
With Giphy Keys, users can swipe through and select a GIF to share immediately via text message or on a social network like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat (the only one that doesn't have its own GIF integration, yet).
“We’re not a keyboard company, but it’s a place to be if we’re trying to serve up GIFs,” Jillian Fisher, director of mobile products at Giphy, told International Business Times.
This isn’t the first GIF keyboard, nor will it be the last. In fact, one of Giphy’s main competitors, Riffsy, has had a similar feature since late 2014 with its aptly named app GIF Keyboard.
Why did Giphy wait a year and a half to launch its own? “We weren’t super in a hurry, just trying to explore different options. We checked out a lot of GIF keyboards, and we actually power a lot of them, but we were not satisfied with what they could do,” said Julie Logan, head of brand strategy.
Late last year, Giphy tasked the company’s mobile developer team with building the keyboard. So-called “magician” Stephen Sowole, formally lead iOS developer, led the charge. “I’m not a magician. I cannot perform magic tricks at all,” Sowole said.
But use Giphy Keys — without a knowledge of iOS development — and you might be mistaken. Unlike other third-party keyboards, the app optimizes for space. It directly replaces the size of the iPhone keyboard and then has a top bar of different sections for searching GIFs, including a favorites tab and other curated feeds. Click on the search tab and a magnifying glass will appear in the search bar and, “like magic,” it will disappear as soon as a GIF is selected.
Step 1: Search
Step 2: Copy
Step 3: Paste
Giphy Keys pulls from Giphy’s billions (“keep adding zeroes,” Logan said) of GIFs, a library of content that is constantly updating based on user submissions and Giphy’s own creations. “The cool thing is we’re being just another client of the API. The second that gets updated, GIPHY Keys keeps rolling,” Fisher said.
Giphy is "pre-revenue," with no immediate plans to start making money. It has partnerships with companies to access their API, but at no charge. For instance, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and the dating app Tinder all use Giphy’s API for their own GIF buttons. Facebook and Twitter also use Riffsy. Giphy’s partnership with Tinder is exclusive, while Riffsy has exclusive deals with LinkedIn and Kik, for example.
It’s a never-ending growth of content, which investors are supporting. Giphy secured $55 million in a Series C round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and including Betaworks, CAA Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and RRE Ventures. In 2014, Giphy was in talks with Facebook on a potential acquisition, TechCrunch reported. Instead, the company took in a financing round that valued it at $80 million. Now, Giphy is up to a $300 million valuation.
Giphy has more than 50 employees, most of them in the New York office. Just recently, Giphy launched a venture called Giphy Studios, for creating original content, in Los Angeles. The team includes engineers, partnership coordinators and editorial curators.
These curators are tasked with preventing any pornographic content from appearing on the site, or the keyboard. “All the content on the site is filtered,” Logan said. “We’re incredibly diligent about that.” The GIFs are all categorized by G, PG, PG-13 and R, so that API clients can tailor their products to different age groups.
Giphy Keys is currently available only for iOS, but an Android app is expected to be in the works soon.