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Netflix, please implement a GIF-making browser extension

It’s all we really want

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Neo Yokio
Kas Kaan (center) in Neo Yokio.

Neo Yokio is a series designed to be watched with captions enabled and fingers at the ready to tap the spacebar, line up a perfect screenshot and tweet out the scene with a sardonic one-liner.

Even if you haven’t seen Neo Yokio, there’s a good chance you saw dozens of different screenshots floating around Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the like. It makes perfect sense. Like 30 Rock, Arrested Development or Parks and Recreation, Neo Yokio is a series built upon the success and deliverance of one-liners. The more melodramatic and absurd the better; perhaps not for the show in question, but for the social clout it will earn you from names whose favorites you foster self-esteem on.

Even as someone who didn’t like Neo Yokio but appreciated what it was trying to accomplish, I was overwhelmed with the desire to get in on the screenshot sharing jive, joining friends and nameless Twitter users retweeted into my timeline who had come up with the perfect quirky joke to match the often absurd astute affirmation in question.

Neo Yokio, like 30 Rock or games such as Super Mario Odyssey, is meant to be shared. It wants to become the subject of memes, jovial jokes spread in jest, not contempt. Screenshots are an easy way to do it, but they’re not the be-end-all of how I want to share moments from the series I’m watching.

Maybe this is an obnoxious request; one derived from a desire to turn a piece of entertainment crafted for solitary enjoyment into something more interactive. Maybe it’s an annoying aspect of my character that I want to take a scene from a TV show and add my own commentary to it. In actuality, it’s probably an amalgamation of all these things, proving I’ve committed the cardinal sin of taking a piece of art and morphing it into a throwaway tweet, but I enjoy TV by sharing it with others. The recent storm of tweets from Neo Yokio prove that I’m not alone in my desires.

What I want, Netflix, is a browser extension that allows me to make 3-5 second GIFs of your original, exclusive series.

I could wait around for the show’s best scenes to make it onto YouTube, downloading those videos through sites that convert YouTube URLs to MP4 files and then making a GIF in an application like GifBrewery from there in case you decide to issue a DMCA takedown notice. In the scenario where you don’t care that Neo Yokio is available on YouTube, I could just use Giphy or GfyCat to do the same thing, but that seems like an elongated, roundabout way of trying to accomplish what is essentially free advertising for your shows.

I watch television through my MacBook Pro or my MacBook Air; not the best way to get ideal, crisp picture quality, but it suffices when I’m trying to watch The Good Place for a 12th time and battling insomnia on a very hot night. I understand that for a series like The Good Place, which NBC owns the rights to, you may not be able to allow GIFing, but what about House of Cards? Or Neo Yokio? Or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Being able to create a 3-5 second GIF of a specific scene, with the captions on, that can then be shared via Twitter, Facebook or whatever social network comes along in the next two years does more than make you unique; it proves you understand your audience.

According to a 2016 report from MoffettNathanson Research, 81 percent of adults between the age of 18 and 34 use Netflix. The biggest demographic of people who use Twitter are also between 18 and 29 (36 percent), while more than half of Instagram and Snapchat are between the ages of 18 and 29 (59 percent and 60 percent respectively).

That data proves there is major overlap between the people who are spending their time watching shows and movies on Netflix and those who are constantly engaging with the world via social media. In 2015, more than 100 million tweets contained GIFs. The GIF doesn’t just signify a change in how we’re displaying our disdain, surprise or enthusiasm for an event or piece of news, but it has changed how we converse with one another. Conversation will never be the same because of the GIF.

The reason so many of us use GIFs from TV shows, movies or games is because they resonate with people. Regardless of whether you’ve actually seen 30 Rock, a GIF of Liz Lemon hunching over a toilet while Jack Donaghy pats her on the back with a broom stick, gently consoling her with a “there, there” is an easily recognizable and relatable moment between two people. It’s arguable that the GIF is better recognized than the episode or TV show it originated from.

Almost everyone wants to make GIFs. It’s why Giphy, GyfCat and Imgur all implemented easy creation tools to make it possible for anyone with a URL and a good sense of comedic timing. We’re left relying on uploads to YouTube and illegal downloads as a means of creating these GIFs of scenes we want to share with one another, but you can fix this with an extension that allows us to do it straight from the Netflix screen.

The medium of content that entertains us isn’t going to change soon; television shows and movies are still what many of us spend our days doing while relaxing. The way we consume that entertainment, however, is changing — and rapidly. Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings told press at the Mobile World Congress show in February that Netflix is ready to invest in a tech future for its subscribers. According to BGR, Hastings said:

Hastings said that technology is very hard to predict. Netflix will learn and adapt to whatever happens. If virtual reality becomes the norm, Netflix will adapt to that. If smart contact lenses are the next big thing, Netflix will adapt to that.

One of the next big things has been happening for the last few years — it’s GIFs and it’s radically changing the way we communicate. If Netflix wants to be at the forefront of technology, let us create our own GIFs right in the browser window and share those scenes with people worldwide.