The internet is a cold, heartless place. That’s according to Alex Chung, founder and CEO of Giphy, who believes that Google has sucked the humanity out of the world wide web. Giphy brings that humanity back, Chung told the Collision tech conference on Wednesday, and its collection of GIFs is a sign of what the internet will look like in five to ten years time.
The internet, according to Chung, is sterile. It’s emotionless, it lacks feeling, and its approach to content can make it feel dull. Chung wants to change that.
In Chung’s vision, all still images on the internet will be replaced by moving images. This will enable “another level of expression of humanity.” Non-moving images will later seem archaic, and the internet will resemble something straight out of Harry Potter, where newspaper photos come to life and characters move around the photo frame.
It hasn’t happened before now, Chung said, because the processing speed just wasn’t there. “We all know that this world is coming,” he said.
Chung outlined his ideas of an animated image world in an onstage conversation with Jemima Kiss, the head of technology at The Guardian. Giphy, he explained, shows what could be possible with this new world. Ryan Gosling GIFs are used by millennials to convey a very specific voice: that of Gosling’s character in The Notebook, but not quite, and with a sort-of tongue-in-cheek usage.
The nuance, Chung explained, is part of building up a new form of communication, much like how a new language learner starts to understand the subtleties of phrases in everyday speech. This new “GIF language” will make its way through the internet and restore a certain level of humanity that Chung believes the internet currently lacks.
Chung said that Giphy’s search engine, which can search for animated images based on human emotions like “sad,” was an example of a more humanitarian approach to searches than Google’s approach. Google’s algorithms approach internet data as if it were all part of one giant library, purging it of emotional value in Chung’s eyes.
“We’re trying to create the first humanist search engine,” he said. “We have all these aspects of human culture that just aren’t on the internet.” If Giphy can pull it off, maybe the internet will start to feel even more expressive than it does today.