The internet is becoming a little more fragmented and less accessible every week. In the past seven days, Reddit completed the removal of third-party clients, required Twitter accounts to view tweets (temporarily or otherwise), and Google News began pulling news articles from Canadian results.
Now there’s one more to add: Gfycat, a place where users uploaded, created, and distributed GIFs of all kinds, is shutting down effective Sept. 1, according to a post on its homepage.
Users of the Snap-owned service are prompted to “Please save or delete your Gfycat content.” “After September 1, 2023, all Gfycat content and data will be removed from gfycat.com.”
Gfycat grew as a service during a period when, like Imgur, it was easier to use than any of the native tools offered by content sites like Facebook or Reddit. As CEO and co-founder Richard Rabbat told TechCrunch in 2016, after raising $10 million from investors, GIFs were “difficult to make, slow to upload, and when you shared them, the quality wasn’t very good.” Gfycat created looped, linked Webm videos that, while compressed, maintain an HD quality. They were easier to share than real files in GIF format and provided an API for other sites to type into.
“I see Gfycat as the ultimate platform for all short content, like YouTube is the platform for longer videos and Twitter is the platform for text-based news and media discussions,” VC funder Ernestine Fu told TechCrunch in 2016. before TikTok, YouTube shorts and Elon Musk’s Twitter property came about.
Signs of trouble at Gfycat surfaced in May when an expired certificate led to cascading downtimes and unreachability for up to five days.
As with Imgur and other services that have hung around long enough, Gfycat itself won’t be a destination site that many users will miss when it comes. But the short videos, reaction GIFs, and other content it hosts will become broken context for many forum threads and online discussions, including, of course, Reddit and Twitter, which are currently being challenged by archives.
Gfycat hasn’t been in the news much since its launch, aside from the outage. But it had a surprise guest appearance in Meta’s 2022 buy-and-sell of Giphy. Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – the same one that tried to slow down Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard – was concerned that a Meta/Giphy combination would dominate the GIF market, as it exists, and make entry impossible for Meta’s competitors.
On appeal, a UK court ruled that the CMA had failed to consider Snapchat parent company Snap acquiring Gfycat in 2017 after it failed to buy Giphy for less than half of the $315 million Meta offered .
As part of his case for the CMA, Giphy essentially downplayed the GIF economy. GIFs had “gone out of fashion as a form of content, with younger users in particular describing gifts as ‘for boomers’ and ‘cringe,'” Giphy told the CMA (PDF). It’s seemingly not a bad time to get out of the GIF game.