A picture is worth 1,000 words, and an animated one takes up half your afternoon. Recently, those animated pictures, Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), have taken over the internet. Clips from television shows or a cat being drug by a leash can capture your attention for hours or be strung together to form a story that words could never describe.
What is GIF?
GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, as they are image files that are compressed to reduce transfer time- therefore changing their format. A GIF is a special file that contains a lot of images set up like a flipbook, multiple images appearing in sequence to create the impression of movement. According to About.com Social Media Guide Leslie Walker’s tutorial on the idea of the GIF, she mentions “In a blog post, Katherine Martin, one of the dictionary's lexicographers said that "to GIF" transcended the noun form, GIF, to become a popular verb. Walker says the verb “to GIF” is defined by the dictionary as "to create a GIF file of an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event." GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, as they are image files that are compressed to reduce transfer time- therefore changing their format.
Where did it come from?
Walker also writes the technology that creates the animated GIF files is complex, dating back to the ‘80s. The most widely recognized animated GIF file is “GIF89A,” which is a special version of the average GIF format. “GIF89A” contains the information for timing of each image for the flipbook effects. This is an image-display-cycle that works to show each individual images sequentially to create the impression of movement or animation.
How does it work?
GIF animation, while difficult to actually do without the aide of a site, isn't very high-tech; the images tend to appear grainy, jerky or both. Also, GIFs have a very limited color palette so they're not as photo-realistic as actual quality photos- and much less than high-definition video. But every major web browser supports the animated GIF format, which has helped these moving images go mainstream online.
How do you make an animated gif?
GIF creation is easy for just about everybody, because of the wide variety of sites available to create GIFs on your behalf. Googling “Create GIF” can point you in the direction of several sites that can make GIFs for you, such as Picasion, Gikr, GifNinja and many more.
If you want to instead just find ready-made GIFs for free, then you can search a few key sites to find tons of free GIFs. One of the most popular choices, according to About.com Web Trends Guide Elise Moreau, is a ‘subreddit’ on Reddit that’s entirely dedicated to sharing funny GIFs, which you can access at Reddit.com/r/GIFs/.
Another site to check is where a lot of the image-based (including GIF) shares on Reddit are hosted, Imgur.com, a free image sharing site. If you want choices, Photobucket has a page dedicated to thousands of animated GIFs. All of the above are free GIFs that you can download and use at your leisure.
Animated Gifs on the go
Creating GIFs is not something that is limited to your desktop. You can use your own images and videos or you can upload some from the Internet. The most popular app for your smartphone or other device is GIF Shop. Even though it costs 99 cents, it offers a variety of ways to both capture your images and animate them.
How does it work with Facebook?
It doesn’t. If you try to upload a GIF to Facebook, a still image of the first frame will appear. However, there are three ways to try and outsmart the system.
- Make a Youtube video look like a GIF.
- Use a third party app on Facebook like Animated Picture. For this app, you do not use your own files. There are hundreds sorted out in different categories to choose from.
- Post a link to the GIF. Yes, the still image will show up, but a description will accompany it. Yes, it may take more time, but your friends will be curious as to what it entails.
But, if the GIF you want to upload is not a moving picture, it should work just fine. If you have a GIF image that is a nonmoving image, you should have no problem uploading it to Facebook. According to the Facebook Developers page, GIFs are one of many file types allowed for uploading to the platform. Other supported image file types include JPG, PNG, PSD, TIFF, JP2, IFF, WBMP and XBM images.
No one is for sure. What we do know is that it’s not about jpeg size. In Facebook’s duel with Google Plus, it relinquished the jpeg requirements for pictures. This is where the much desired unlike button could be used.
Additional reporting provided by Danielle Deschaine and Krista Pirtle.