Remember the sticker albums that were massively popular during the 80s and 90s? PopKey is creating a new version for the smartphone era with the launch of its redesigned mobile app for GIFs. Previously a simple companion to PopKey’s GIF keyboard, the new app now lets users discover, save, and share GIFs directly to their social media accounts, email, and messaging apps.
PopKey is also now one of the providers (along with Giphy and Riffsy) for FB Messenger’s in-app GIF search feature.
As well as to PopKey’s reaction channels, which organize GIFs by mood, the new app includes partner channels with content from brands like Major League Baseball, MTV, Starbucks, HBO, and Funny Or Die. These new features means PopKey now competes more closely with Giphy, the GIF search engine, in addition to rival GIF keyboard Riffsy.
PopKey is a creation of Ottawa’s WorkshopX studio. Co-founder Nazim Ahmed says its users currently perform millions of searches monthly through PopKey’s keyboard and mobile/desktop apps, with that number growing steadily. On average, people who have installed the keyboard on their iOS devices open it about six times a day.
Every time a user goes into one of PopKey’s reaction channels (the most popular are “not amused,” “excited,” and “happy”), they spend an average of two minutes browsing, which means they might view hundreds of GIFs. This is an important selling point for potential content partners.
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“We want to create an experience where users can see GIFs on a larger screen, but have everything work together. So the mobile app is for search and discovery and the keyboard is to insert GIFs into conversations,” says Ahmed. He adds that many of PopKey’s users are “GIF collectors” and the updated app will hopefully encourage them to save GIFs to PopKey instead of their smartphone camera rolls.
PopKey’s most direct competitor for mobile users is Riffsy, which is available on Android in addition to iOS (an Android version of PopKey is in the works). Riffsy recently raised a $10 million Series A and, like PopKey, also plans to monetize with branding deals. Aside from a small seed round from Real Ventures, PopKey is still mostly self-funded.
Ahmed says his team’s goal is to continue differentiating PopKey’s user experience by encouraging people to spend more time inside the app exploring and collecting GIFs, instead of just using them as add-ons to text conversations.
“The way we look at GIFs is that it’s a new form of mobile video. We want to build a content layer to make the experience better,” says Ahmed. “I don’t think GIFs will replace emojis or written language, but they will always work together.”
For partners, PopKey lets them get more mileage out of any content that can be turned into a three-second loop. Ahmed describes PopKey’s value proposition is the second-screen experience it creates. For example, people watching an MTV show or MLB game can turn to their respective channels to find GIFs of key moments to send to friends or share on Facebook and Twitter.
“I think companies are trying to understand how to put their brands in a natural and seamless way into this whole messaging experience and this seems like a natural way to do it,” says Ahmed.