Animated GIFs, stickers, and emoticons: Messaging-first communication

Animated gifs, stickers, and emoticons seem like toys. They’re fun. They’re LOL. They’re cute. But I think to dismiss them solely as toys misses something important — they’re addressing a messaging-first communication need.

Okay, okay — give me a chance:

Technology has slowly diluted the density of our communication. Think about a face to face meeting — there is so much that gets communicated in a single conversation. You’re reading a person’s body language. What they say. Their facial expressions. The tone of their voice. Physical touch.

Then came the phone. You still had voice tonality and inflections, but you lost the physical attributes.

Email abstracted this further — reducing communication to words. Now we live mostly in a smartphone messaging world, where few people would be criticized as being wordy. It’s just a heck of a lot harder on a small phone. Your words per minute is slower, and therefore you type less. This is where emoticons, stickers, and animated gifs come in.

To me, services like Giphy, stickers in LINE, keyboards like PopKey, and emoticon reactions like what Slack make us more effective communicators in short-form mobile messaging. An emoticon, sticker, or animated gif bring more of the elements of face to face communication to a status update, text, or message.

I don’t pretend to think that animated gifs are the “the next big thing”, but it certainly feels like an area where something interesting is happening. It’ll be fun to see how it evolves and how these “toys” begin to permeate more and more of our mobile communication.

What do you think? Have you seen anyone doing this well?

native new yorker, SF-resident. general partner @benchmark. formerly product @Pinterest. originally blogging at

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