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Tumblr Just Launched the First GIF Search Engine

GIFs have become the gold standard of shareable media. As animated images, they say more than mere words or even still photos, yet they’re easier to make than video files. They also take up less storage space—on computers or in our heads. Most gifs last just a few seconds, making then the perfect way to grab someone’s limited attention.

That’s why you see GIFs all over Facebook, on blogs, and even as standalone replies to texts or emails. It’s also why Tumblr has taken a fascinating new step: creating its own GIF search engine.

Your Own Personal GIF Hunter

You may or may not use Tumblr, a platform for short, shareable blog posts. But even a single visit will show you two things: many posts are literally nothing but a GIF, and these are often the most popular posts.

So Tumblr is making it easier to search GIFs (and, of course, share them). The new search feature is built into the Insert toolbar when composing a Tumblr post. All you do is click the GIF icon and then type in some keywords, and you’ll get GIF results from over 112 billion Tumblr posts.

This will help users at several levels, from finding images they saw long ago and lost track of, to getting their own GIFs more widely promoted. And self promotion is definitely at the core: when you find a GIF you like and insert it into your post, credit and a link to the source is automatically added. (The owner of the source blog even gets a notification.) Considering that the whole point of Tumblr is to get your work shared, this is a pretty good deal.

Questionable Reasoning

As neat as the new feature is, much to do has been made about Tumblr’s official reasoning. The idea, of course, is that GIFs express some ideas better than words, and Tumblr has played this to the hilt. “Since GIFs have replaced written language,” their official announcement reads, “We’re making it easier to turn your obsolete verbiage into modern moving pictures. ”

But that touch of whimsy may be a cover-up. By the numbers, 11 percent of the top 200,000 Tumblr blogs are sexually explicit blogs, and over 16 percent of traffic on top Tumblrs is adult material related. If the reason you blog with Tumblr is to find and share erotic moving images, then a GIF search engine takes on added value.

Tumblr knows better than to directly admit that this is an adult material tool, and there’s no doubt that it will be useful to G-rated bloggers as well. But Tumblr clearly knows what drives a large portion of their traffic and they’re not shy about catering to their base.

Still, you can put the new engine to use for strictly safe-for-work interests. You will have to create your own Tumblr blog to do so, however; there is not yet a publicly facing version of the search engine.