How Alex Chung Made All Our Lives So. Much. Better.

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

The best decision Apple has made in the last five years was not introducing touch ID on the iPhone, nor removing USB ports from its laptops (ugh). Apple’s greatest innovation was integrating GIFs into iMessage.

I mean, emojis are great, but sometimes you need a good eyeroll:


Or vogue:


Or Elmo on the toilet??


Communication has never been more visual than it is today (except for maybe cave paintings). Alex Chung has been a huge part of that. He, with co-founder Jace Cooke, created the GIF search engine Giphy where you can find virtually any GIF you want (incidentally Apple’s greatest failing may be relying on Bing to supply their GIFs…).

You would imagine that the creator of a GIF search engine would be seriously cool–and you would be right. It takes a certain (cool) kind of person to create a GIF search engine, and he isn’t even in it for the money. He’s insightful about human communication and connection and the GIF’s significance. In a 2016 interview with Engadget, he explained it like this:

GIFs are a language that allows ourselves to express complex ideas and thoughts in ways that we couldn’t express before…Our visual vocab has been evolving and our ability to comprehend information gets faster as we get used to visual expression. The format will change, and we’ll follow it.

Chung didn’t invent GIFs, but in making them so widely accessible, he paved the way to a major and fundamental change to the way we communicate. GIPHY doesn’t just gather GIFs, but create them, too.

You know those fantastic award show reaction GIFs? Chung and his team are busy churning those out almost in real time.

And what does that do for us? Creates stronger connections. Makes text conversations more fun. Helps people to more accurately express the thoughts and feelings and emotions trapped in their head.

Thank you, Alex Chung, for the GIF(t)s you’ve given us:

  1. Teaching us the correct pronunciation of “GIF”. I’ve always taken the puritanical approach to its pronunciation (“jif”) but then I watched this video in which he explains that GIPHY supports both “gif” and “jif” as legitimate pronunciations, but that “jif” is the 80s way of saying it (aw man!) while “gif” encompasses the more modern use of the word. It represents “an entirely new generation of content and content producers”. Now you know.
  2. Offering new paradigms of leadership. For example, make the workplace somewhere people like to be; recognizing that good dynamics among employees makes for happy employees and a successful company; and just generally making work awesome.
  3. The BEST Buzzfeed listicles. (I’m not sure GIPHY was involved in the creation of these lists, but since we’re talking about GIFs here…) Before Buzzfeed went serious, they published the most hilarious lists and were aces at the GIF game. Like here: 27 Reasons Why Kids Are Actually The Worst which has great photos but even better GIFs. And here, because you can never go wrong with a good cat GIF–or 29 Cats Who Failed So Hard They Won. And here, in what is probably my all-time favorite Buzzfeed GIF list: 19 People Who Are Having a Way Worse Day Than You.

See Alex Chung March 13 @ 12:30

Anna Ray
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