Everything You Need to Know About GIFs, Explained in GIFs

On Monday, Yahoo! announced that it would buy the blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion. The first thing CEO Marissa Mayer did on her own Tumblr after the announcement?

Post a GIF

The GIF is nothing new. In June 2012, the Atlantic celebrated the 25th anniversary of the GIF, through GIFs. But if you're late to the GIF party, or have somehow avoided all those GIF blogs, here's everything you need to know about GIFs, explained in GIFs. 

1. What does GIF stand for?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, a "bitmap image format widely used on the Internet for its flexible web support and portability."  Put more simply, a GIF is an image file format, like a .jpg, .png or .tiff. It was invented by Steve Wilhite of CompuServe, the first major commercial online service in the U.S., in 1987. Not all GIFs are animated, but the popular usage of GIF connotes the animated kind. 

2. Is it pronounced 'GIF' like 'gift' or 'GIF' like the peanut butter brand?

Confused?

Good news: YouTube has an answer.

Bad news: The Obama administration disagrees

It's worth noting that the creator of the GIF allegedly prefers a soft 'g.' Soft 'g' advocates have gone so far as to create an entire website which will correct you if you prefer the White House-approved hard 'g.' The Atlantic sides with soft 'g' advocates as well, noting that "Choosy programmers chose 'gif' or 'jif'." 

Personally, I prefer GIF with a hard 'g.' Because, well, whatever. 

3. Who cares about GIFs?

Well, you should. Probably.

I'll leave the explaining up to Ann Friedman, my personal GIF guru. 

"More compelling than a static photo and more immediate than Web video, the animated GIF ... is a uniquely digital mode of conveying ideas and emotion. Like the Twitter hashtag, which has transitioned from a functional way of sorting content to its own part of speech, the animated GIF has gone from a simple file type to its own mode of expression. GIFs have grown up, and they are everywhere right now."

From live blogs to list stories, GIFs are incredibly useful for web writers. They're an easy way to quickly express emotion, to break up long blocks of text, and to add character to a piece. While GIFs aren't appropriate for every story, it's worth your time to learn how to use them effectively. After all, you can always choose not to use GIFs after learning about them, if you prefer. 

4. How do I find good GIFs?

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Thanks to Jace Cooke and Alex Chung of Betaworks (who you might know from their other extremely useful products, like Instapaper, Chartbeat, and bitly), filling your GIF folder just got a whole lot easier

The Verge reports, "[Giphy] lets users search a database of around thousands of GIFs, the animated loops that have become the lingua franca of internet culture. Word spread like wildfire and by the end of that week, with no marketing at all, over 50,000 people had taken Giphy for a spin, melting down the not-yet-a-startup's one server on several occasions." Just as Giphy was preparing their big launch with Betaworks, Google announced that it would be adding a new search tool specifically for animated GIFs. Giphy's creators are unfazed, though; they are planning to "build Giphy into the best place to search, curate, create, remix, and share GIFs."

In other words, limited knowledge of Tumblr is no longer an excuse. If you can't find good GIFs, you probably don't know how to use the internet.