Google is going all-in on GIFs today with the news that it’s acquiring GIF search engine Tenor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founded in 2014, Tenor is one of a number of GIF-focused technology companies to come to the fore in recent years. The San Francisco-based company offers a web-based GIF search engine in addition to a GIF keyboard app for Android and iOS that enables users to easily access GIFs from their keyboard.
Tenor claims a whopping 12 billion monthly searches are carried out each month by 300 million users, and it’s this scale that Google is now looking to tap into. Indeed, Tenor already claims a number of big-name partners including Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Google itself via Gboard.
According to Google, Tenor will continue as is, and it will maintain its separate brand. “We’re looking forward to investing in their technology and relationships with content and API partners,” noted Google Images director of engineering Cathy Edwards, in a blog post.
However, it will be interesting to see whether this leads to rival companies such as Facebook or Apple removing support for Tenor in the future.
The fact that the humble GIF continues to thrive more than 30 years after the file format was first introduced is remarkable. But in an age of mobile messaging and ubiquitous computing, the expressive qualities offered by a little looping animated photo are clearly a big draw for consumers, and thus for tech companies and investors too.
Tenor had raised around $32 million in equity funding, according to Crunchbase data, while New York-based GIF engine Giphy has raised north of $150 million. Interestingly, Alphabet’s venture arm GV (formerly Google Ventures) invested as part of Giphy’s $72 million investment round back in 2016.
Tenor took its first tentative steps toward monetizing its service last April with the launch of real-time analytics and an ad product for businesses. And later that year, Tenor announced it was embracing augmented reality (AR) with a new software development kit (SDK) that allows Unity and Apple’s ARKit developers to integrate GIFs into AR applications.