Tumblr Debuts Its Own GIF Search Engine

Tumblr this morning is rolling out a new feature designed to take advantage of the extensive collection of GIFs hosted on its service: a GIF search engine. The news follows that of Facebook’s decision to officially support the animated file format on users’ Timelines, announced last week. With Tumblr’s implementation, web users will now be able to more easily locate GIFs on Tumblr as well as add them to their posts, while also properly crediting the GIF’s original creator, the company says.

The search engine doesn’t rely on a third-party integration, such as a partnership with the popular GIF resource Giphy, for example, but instead only includes those GIFs that have been posted to the Tumblr platform.

The GIFs are indexed and cataloged using Tumblr’s search algorithms, which rely on tags to properly identify the GIFs.

That means Tumblr users should be able to surface GIFs using less common keywords than on some other search services, including via unique Tumblr slang, sayings and other abbreviations that members of the various fandoms on Tumblr use. For example, a search for “aos” should be able to pull up GIFs related to the TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” while a search for “hp” could pull up GIFs related to the character “Harry Potter,” thanks to the way the engine has been designed. It also means users should be able to search Tumblr’s GIFs by phrases that were included in the post’s tags, like “I want to believe,” for X-Files GIFs, for instance.

To determine which GIFs are ranked more highly in the search results, Tumblr takes a variety of factors into consideration, but engagement – including likes and reblogs – is a strong factor.


Users who want to add a GIF to their post will now be able to do so by clicking the plus “+” button the web interface, then clicking the new “GIF” button and entering in their search terms. After selecting the GIF, it’s automatically added to the post along with a credit for the creator, which appears immediately below the image with a link to the original post.

That person will be notified that their GIF has been used and linked through notifications which are pushed out across all platforms, including web and mobile.


The GIFs are indexed from across all of Tumblr, whose site today includes over 239 million blogs with more than 80 million new posts daily. Currently, there are more than 112 billion posts on Tumblr, many of which include GIFs.

What makes Tumblr’s search service interesting is that the site has, for a long time, been known to be one of the web destinations that helped influence the GIF’s comeback over the years. The file format grew popular in the web early days as a way to add visual interest and movement to web pages. But as internet speeds increased and computing technology improved, GIFs were discarded for some time in favor of more high-quality files.

In recent years, however, GIFs have been seeing a renaissance of sorts. But these days, GIFs tend to emerge from edited video files, sometimes with advanced effects like filtering or adjustments in speed, as opposed to Web 1.0’s GIFs which were often crude animations, like the once-ubiquitous dancing banana GIF or the flashing “under construction” sign for web pages still being built.

And Tumblr has served to host many of these newer, more modern GIFs for years, including a number of original creations.

At launch, Tumblr’s GIF Search is only available on the web, but attribution and notifications are on all platforms, including Android and iOS. Tumblr hasn’t yet said when the feature will make its way to Tumblr’s mobile apps, but it seems it would make sense to include it in the future.