In this hyper-speed age of information of ours, the content that we share with one another seems to get shorter and shorter by the day. Whereas once upon a time, we used to invite friends over to watch a movie together, today the same sentiment can be expressed with nothing but a quick 2-second gif.
Now, just to be clear, I am not here to cast any aspersions or to lecture you about how our forms of communication are becoming baser, more superficial, less substantial – I’ll leave that for the college professors – I am merely acknowledging the fact that our content is getting quicker to view, allowing for a more streamlined form of socializing … especially when online.
Therefore, the old sites that we used to rely on for video content may not always be as relevant as they once were. YouTube, for instance, for decades almost, was everybody’s go-to website for sharing and viewing video content. Now, it is hard to boil YouTube down into a single category, so as to say, ‘this is the kind of content that YouTube typically caters to,’ as it is comprised of an extremely diverse and broad spectrum of users who upload whatever they are interested in.
However, I think that it is fair to say that most YouTube videos are probably longer than a couple of minutes in duration, right? Watching a YouTube video, in other words, is sometimes something of a commitment – at least when compared to viewing a quick gif or, say, a Tik Tok video. You are likely going to be watching for at least a few minutes on YouTube.
But there are, of course, newer alternatives to YouTube that are not as focused on lengthy or even complete video content. Such sites have taken the social media components of YouTube, though (as well as, it could be argued, the general idea behind a free video-sharing platform), in order to create enormous databases of shorter media content: gifs, memes, and things like that.
When I think of sites that are social media hotbeds of gifs and memes, the first thing that comes to mind (after Reddit or maybe Instagram, of course) is 9GAG. To be clear, though, 9GAG is not primarily a social media site; nor is it primarily a video/gif sharing site. In the most basic terms, 9GAG is a hybrid site, bringing together aspects of social media and the ability to share user-created content. It just so happens that the majority of the content that is shared on 9GAG falls under the umbrella of “meme” or “gif” culture. It is a newer content hosting/social media platform that has quickly picked up steam.
9GAG was cofounded between the years of 2009 and 2010 by a group of five people from Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong student Ray Chan and his brother Chris Chan, along with Derek Chan, Marco Fung, and Brian Yu. Their shared vision was to create an alternative online platform from which people could share humorous pics and videos. The name, perhaps the most elusive aspect of 9GAG, remains a mystery. In a 2012 interview, CEO Ryan Chan declined to explain its origins.
But if I had to make a guess, I would assume that it has something to do with the use of the word “gag,” meaning a joke or a shtick, seeing as that seems to be the overall attitude of the company. 9GAG was started with a ‘just for kicks’ mentality and its founders used it primarily as a resume builder to hedge their bets for the 500 startups accelerator program. During this summer program, the team also worked on “more serious” projects, such as Startup Quote and Song board.
Upon completing this summer program, the 9GAG team was welcomed into Y Combinator’s incubator. This is where 9GAG’s userbase skyrocketed to 70 million unique monthly visitors around the globe. It became abundantly clear that this little joke site was where their fortunes were hidden. So, they abandoned all other projects and worked on 9GAG full-time. They were nice enough, too, to give 500 Startups a portion of equity for their aid and mentorship.
In July of 2012, 9GAG raised an impressive $2.8 million from Silicon Valley investors. The following month, they were able to match that amount from venture capitalists. Today, 9GAG stands as one of the most promising sites to keep an eye out for, and its operations are split between the company’s two homes: Hong Kong and Silicon Valley.
If I had to describe the way that 9GAG is designed, I think I would have to say that it looks something like a cross between YouTube, Reddit, and Instagram. Honestly, these are not bad sites at all for 9GAG to be in the company with, design-wise. I mean, I have my gripes with YouTube’s design, but it is, at the very least, familiar; which makes navigating 9GAG, too, a familiar and intuitive experience. That being said, just for the record, I do think that 9GAG’s design is slightly better than YouTube’s … it is much more user-friendly, I think and has a more intuitive layout.
That is where Instagram’s influence comes in. The main page of 9GAG is not unlike that of Instagram – a constant feed of picture, short video, and gif content shared by other users. Below each post, you can comment and “like.” To the left, you are able to browse the site by Hot, Trending, Fresh, or by category (Funny, Animals, Anime, Cosplay, Gaming, etc.).
It reminds me ever so slightly of Reddit solely in the fact that users can upvote or downvote any post they see. Doing so, of course, affects that post’s visibility. So, similar to Reddit, 9GAG uses a sort of democratized voting system in order to decide which content deserves the most visibility on the site.
As I have touched on before, 9GAG will not be the site for you if you are looking for more substantial long-form video content. However, if you love memes, gifs, and short funny videos, 9GAG is going to be right up your alley. There is definitely a bent on 9GAG which skews towards demographics that would be likely to enjoy things like anime and manga, cosplay, and gaming. That also feels important to note. Each site has its own sort of culture to it, and I think that is probably the best way to give a glimpse into 9GAG’s … gaming, anime, and humor is the site’s bread and butter.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
I think that the experience is, overall, very intuitive and organized. I had no real complaints when accessing the site on my laptop. The only thing that I didn’t love was an unmarked, constantly refreshing feed of content to the right of the main feed. I found it distracting and unprofessional-looking, but maybe that’s just me.
The app, too, provides an excellent user experience. Perhaps even better than that of the desktop browser site, to be honest. It looks much more like a legitimate social media outlet, the app does. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it has a more professional air about it. The layout of the app almost resembles that of a news app – that is probably where I am picking up on that professional vibe from. Either way, in my opinion, the app provides a superior experience. And other users seem to agree – 9GAG has an average rating of 4.5 stars (out of 5) on the Apple App Store.
Pricing and Plans
9GAG is 100% free to sign up for and use to your heart’s content. Of course, nothing is truly free … you will still have to deal with quite a few ads. But, hey, that’s pretty much to be expected for free services these days, right?
Suggestions that I have for 9GAG
I would like to see the in-browser site take after the 9GAG app a little more. I love the clean and streamlined feel of the app … I wish that the website itself also provided a similar experience. Other than that, though, 9GAG is great at doing what it does. Maybe offering a paid subscription service, too, couldn’t hurt. That way 9GAG could cut down on its reliance on ads!
All in all, if you find that you come to the internet most often for the LOLs, 9GAG is probably the site that you’ve been waiting for. Why not check it out, what do you have to lose?