(Update 5/22/2023: Following Motherboard’s request for comment from Gfycat’s parent company Snap, Gfycat.com’s TLS certificate was renewed, after being expired for five days. A spokesperson from Snap told Motherboard that this was a “temporary issue” that has been resolved.)
Gfycat, one of the first sites to offer video encoding for GIFs, is seemingly dead after its site’s security certificates expired.
The website’s TLS certificate—a kind of digital certificate responsible for establishing an encrypted connection between websites or servers and browsers—expired on May 17, 2023, making the site unreachable to most people. Links to images respond with an error message from the browser.
Founded in 2015 by Richard Rabbat, Dan McEleney, and Jeff Harris, the user-generated content platform raised a $10 million seed round in 2016, and was once one of the most popular sites in the U.S. It had integrations with some of the biggest messaging platforms and services, including Reddit, Skype, Microsoft Outlook, and WordPress.
Gfycat was popular in large part because it supported HD clips, and preserved video quality when those clips were compressed. Users have been reporting problems with uploading for months, and unresponsive company support for a year or more, with questions as to whether anyone still works on the site who could resolve issues.
“At this point it's evident that the website will keep running until the domain expires or the servers collapse,” one user wrote on the r/gfycat subreddit three months ago, after experiencing broken features and lack of support response. “No one is taking care of it so just a matter of time.”
In 2019, Gfycat announced that it would permanently remove all content that was older than a year, uploaded without an account, or had less than 200 views. Archivists led by digital preservation group ArchiveTeam saved around 19.1 million affected uploads at the time. Days after the site’s security certificate expired in May, people in a subreddit dedicated to Gfycat started a campaign to save more content by using a browser-based workaround and save pages to the Internet Archive.
In late 2019, Gfycat launched the image hosting platform Redgifs, which allows adult content, as an alternative for uploading explicit content no longer allowed on Gfycat.
Many of the people who used Imgur for porn migrated to Redgifs after Imgur announced it would purge all explicit content and anonymous accounts last month.
In the last month, multiple sites have announced or enacted new bans on old content, including Imgur but also Twitter, which owner Elon Musk announced would purge inactive accounts, and most Google, which said last week that it would remove any account that sat inactive for two years from its service. It’s been a rough month for archivists and anyone interested in trying to preserve the history of the web, where nothing truly lasts forever.