Gif, pronounced “jif” by most people except its creator Steve Wilhite, is one of the fastest-growing mediums on the web. It has helped generate billions of dollars in revenue and introduced the world to truly unforgettable images. The Graphics Interchange Format or gif was designed as an assignment for one of the first large-scale online service providers, CompuServe, back in 1987.
Originally a favorite among tech enthusiasts for its ability to store multiple images in one file, thus enabling a platform for short video clips when bandwidth is low, the gif is known for aesthetically appearing more like a flipbook in its look and feel. It forgives the need to fill the minimum 15 frames per second threshold required to keep humans from detecting individual frames.
The gif belonged to CompuServe, and they had the legal rights to determine its use, but their patent expired in 1998. Thus, the gif went on to become the gold standard for creating short looped animations on the web and as you can see is as fresh and relevant as ever.
The gif experienced dark ages in the late 90s and early 2000s as users of social sites like Angel Fire in Myspace adopted the format to decorate profile and web pages with crude gif variations. But luckily, sites like 4chan and know your meme would appear, expanding on the creation and documentation of motion GifWorks. Thus, a new favorite form of expressing reactions and commentary to news of the day on forums, image boards, and social networks became a new fad.
With the notable popularity of the reblogging site tumblr, the gif renaissance has become pervasive. Just this year, in fact, Wilhite was honored at the Webbies with a lifetime achievement award for designing the gif. Though I’m sure that trophy will look nice on the mantle, I’ll bet he would have treated it for tumblr having just sold for over a billion dollars to Yahoo.
The gif images have been recognized and validated by contemporary galleries, museums around the world, festivals, dedicated websites, tools, search engines, and millions of dollars of investment. Even I decided to try my hand at making a gif with Photoshop, and the result is nothing short of genius.
In conclusion, gifs have come a long way since their creation in 1987. Despite experiencing some dark ages, they have emerged as a powerful medium for expressing reactions and commentary to modern events. With the rise of social media and digital art, gifs are here to stay.