Twitter’s Bold New Path Forward: A GIF Button

Courtesy of WIRED:

TWITTER IS TRYING to rescue itself with longer tweets, algorithmic timelines and… animated GIFs.

Today the company is rolling out a new feature that lets you find and share animated GIFs without ever leaving Twitter. If you want to reply to a friend’s tweet with a funny picture of someone banging his head against a desk, you can just push the “GIF” button, search for “head desk” and find several to choose from. Or you can select one from a bunch of pre-defined categories, such as “Happy Dance,” “Mic Drop,” or “YOLO.”

It works a lot like the GIF button in Facebook Messenger. And like Facebook Messenger, Twitter’s GIF button is powered by the GIF hosting sites Giphy and Riffsy. But unlike Facebook, Twitter is making the GIF feature available on public posts, not just direct messages.

This is the latest change designed to make Twitter more appealing to the general public. It might not seem like Twitter needs much saving. The company has 320 million active monthly users, and it boosted its revenue by 58 percent last quarter. But the company is still losing money. Worse, it’s slowly bleeding users, possibly due to rampant harassment and a confusing interface. Earlier this year its stock sunk to an all-time low. Meanwhile, other social apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat, have either caught up with Twitter or surpassed it entirely.

The new feature won’t do anything to comfort Twitter’s harassment victims, nor will it make the site easier to use. It could even add to the confusion. Animated GIFs alone won’t save Twitter’s dwindling stock price. But they’re a heck of a lot of fun, and that might be just what Twitter needs right now.