Who doesn’t enjoy a animated GIF? I know I love em’ and I wouldn’t respond to half the emails I get with out them. This is one of the oldest ways to visually display something on the internet and they seem to get more an more popular each year.
But, what/who planted the seed for how something like this could work? Well you have to travel back to the year of 1879, yes that is 1879. Apparently the invention of the “Zoopraxiscope,” which was a created by Eadweard Muybridge laid the groundwork for the animated GIF. Basically his idea was to take multiple still images of something in a moving sequence, and then to individually place those images small on a wheel. Once you focused through a viewport and saw the wheel turn you essentially saw a moving image.
Muybridge’s fundamental idea is turned in to what we all know as an animated GIF now. Which is basically a sequence of still images running in a loop endlessly on the internet.
In the early days of the internet that GIFs were a decent replacement for anything that was a short video. This had to do with several factors such as limited internet speed, clunky interfaces for video players and often having use a third party service that relied on flash. As download speeds got faster, video player experience got better, and you could easily embed any YouTube or Vimeo video into a site, however the GIF didn’t really lose its place on the internet.
The GIF does something pretty awesome that video doesn’t typically do. That is, it gets to the point quick and it loops often. There is something about watching the best part of something over an over again. Tumblr understood this pretty well on and this is why people love to collect their animated GIFs on their site. But, more recently Vine has figured out the value of this concept, but is using video instead of the GIF to show how this concept works in a different media format.
Here are some of my favorite places to find these nuggets of GIF gold:
GIFs have had some interesting developments that I have started to notice as of recent when it comes to mobile devices. For instance when you stumble on a page that is loaded with GIFs as the page content, each GIF is loaded with a play button. I have found this feature to be pretty essential to keeping a really good user experience. This is because a bunch of animated GIF content seems to bog down an internet device. So, allowing the user to play which GIF they want to see on their own time seems to be an appropriate approach to handling a large amount of animated GIFs. Quick Left offers some cool techniques on how you can place controls on your animated GIFs.
Another feature that I have liked, but there seems to be many mixed reviews, is the replacement of a video clip with an animated GIF. I have most noticeably seen this on the “Bleacher Report” app. They are taking short video clips of sports replays, and replacing the video with an animated GIF that has a play button. I find this to be better experience on my phone because if the highlight is short it will just loop over itself again, and you don’t have to hit play to get a second look. Some, people complain that their GIFs are jumpy on their devices (as usual this comes down to a million different factors such as internet speed, connection, device type, browser, etc…), but my device seem to work fine, so keep-on-keeping on Bleacher Report.
To sum it all up I love GIFs and hope they never go out of internet style. The following people and organizations need a big thanks for helping GIFs become what they are today:
- Eadweard Muybridge – Inventor of the Zoopraxiscope
- Steve Wilhite – Inventor of GIF file format
- Abraham Lempel, Jacob Ziv, and Terry Welch – Lossless Compression Algorithm
- Netscape 2.0 – First Browser to Support Animated GIFs
Also, if you pronounce it as jiff instead of gif then you are a mad-man, I don’t even care what the inventor says.