If there’s one thing the Internet loves, that’s a good GIF!
Even if you have absolutely no idea what it is, you’ve most likely used or seen one before.
In this guide I will share with you everything you need to know about this outdated, but omnipresent image file format.
What does GIF stand for?
What is a GIF?
GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. It’s basically an image file format created by Steve Wilhite, a US software developer in 1987 when he wanted to use animated images with a very low file size.
That makes it more than 30 years old!
It has since become incredibly popular on the world wide web due to its wide compatibility with different operating systems and browsers.
The infinite loop and the fact that it autoplays makes it instantly recognizable and gives it that familiar feeling.
In the early days of the internet in the 90s and early 2000s, GIF was an instant hit. Back then, there was no such thing as web video or YouTube, so animated GIFs were the only way to give some life to those old looking websites and make them stand out.
How do you pronounce GIF?
Many people say it’s pronounced GIF (with a G like in Graphics), while others claim it’s JIF.
The answer is JIF.
This gave Internet users headaches for decades. If you look online, you’ll find tons of very thorough and incredibly well argumented debates on this. I find it incredible how much effort people have put in analyzing English phonetics (like it’s the most logical language out there) to claim the other side is wrong.
Don’t just take my word for it, here’s a video of Steve Wilhite, the creator of the format, telling the world once and for all how it is. That definitely put an end to my ever growing dilemma, especially when making videos about the format.
The technical limitations
As we covered previously, the GIF file format for images is more than 30 years old. As you can imagine, that makes it pretty… well, limited.
Remember, most of the things you love and use today, barely even existed 10 years ago.
To keep things short and simple, let’s just say that GIF images can only show 256 colors chosen from the 24-bit RGB color space. That makes it a very bad choice for photographic images, but a very good one for computer generated images.
When it comes to animated GIFs with transparent background, I’m not even gonna go there. It’s just… bad!
But for a format its age, I have to say, it has aged well!
The growing popularity of GIFs
Thanks to millennials and social media, GIF’s popularity has literally skyrocketed over the recent years.
All those animated stickers or memes you see online.
For example, in their “State of the GIF” announcement back in 2016, Giphy.com – the internet’s biggest GIF search engine and database, claimed to serve over 1 Billion GIF images every day, with more than 100 million daily active users. Basically, its users were watching more than 2 million hours of GIFs every single day. Wow!
They have become so widely-used, the word “GIF” was named the 2012 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year.
Are GIFs copyrighted?
That’s a very good question to ask yourself. Not just when using GIFs, but when it comes to any sort of original work you come across and want to use yourself.
A very healthy question.
Individuals create and share GIFs with little thought to the possible repercussions. And the discussion of fair use gets incredibly complex, as social media GIFs more often than not include celebrities or scenes from famous films and TV shows.
The trouble lies in using someone else’s original content to create and share a GIF. This usage undermines the copyright owner’s ability to control derivatives of their work, where or how their work is shared, and their right to receive proceeds.
The short answer is that yes, GIFs are certainly subject to copyright laws as original creative works.
However, as of 2020, nobody seems to have gotten sued over it. If they did, that would most likely create a precedent that would get the entire Internet in trouble and change the landscape forever.
Gives me headaches just thinking about it!
Commercially Licensed Royalty-Free Stock GIFs
Worried about copyright? You should be!
That’s where stock GIFs come in handy. Commercially licensed royalty-free GIF animations that you can use on your projects without worrying about getting sued.
It’s a bit of a new concept and a niche that’s hard to break into, because everybody’s mentality when it comes to GIFs revolves around free social media GIFs.
VideoPlasty is proud to be the first stock website offering such resources for our creative customers. At the point of writing this article, there simply isn’t any other offer on the market.
Exciting times ahead, as we expand and grow our stock GIF catalog!
Browse our collection of stock GIFs here to find something suitable for your website, PowerPoint presentation or any other project you’re working on!
How to make an animated GIF?
It’s hard to teach you how to make the sort of professional GIFs we publish, unless you’re interested in spending a few hundred hours learning graphic design, color theory, motion graphics and character rigging.
But if your needs are a little simpler than that, you can use some online tools such as the free Giphy GIF Maker.
Or if you need a little bit more flexibility over your GIF animation process, you can use a tool like Pixteller to create your GIFs.
Who knows, if the demand is there, we might even create our own VideoPlasty GIF maker in the future!
Alternative formats for image animations
As you can imagine, with its last stable release happening over 30 years ago, the GIF format is a little outdated. In the time since, there have been a few incredibly good options for animated image formats.
APNG – this is basically an animated PNG. Developed by Mozilla around 10 years ago, it failed to gain any traction.
Webp – this is an image compression algorithm created by Google and considered a modern image format.
HEIF – or take for example HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format), pushed by Apple.
They’re all incredibly good at what they do, offering you a much higher quality image at a fraction of the size of a GIF.
Basically a no-brainer. At least on paper. But none have yet to reach any sort of popularity as the king of animated images, which are GIFs.
Maybe it’s actually the low quality of the images that gives it that special feeling.
Now It’s Your Turn
No matter if you like them or not, GIFs are here to stay.
Their ease of use and social media presence are most likely to make their popularity grow ever larger!
Any avid Internet user can tell you that nothing really conveys emotions online the same way a GIF can.
It’s time to turn it over to you!
What do you think about GIFs?
Do you use GIFs on social media?
Or maybe you plan to use GIFs in your PowerPoint presentations to stand out?
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below!