What Are Animated GIFs – Even if you can’t define the word “GIF,” you’ve probably seen one before. They helped define the early internet, and they’re more popular now than ever before. But what exactly is a GIF, and how do you use them?. In this guide, we will be explaining what GIFs are and how you can make use of them.
A GIF (Graphical Interchange Format) is an image format invented in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, a US software writer who was looking for a way to animate images in the smallest file size. In short, GIFs are a series of images or soundless video that will loop continuously and doesn’t require anyone to press play. This repetition makes GIFs feel immediately familiar, like the beat of a song.
Why Are GIFs Gaining Popularity?
GIFs are gaining popularity because, like memes, they’re useful for communicating jokes, emotions, and ideas. Also, sites like GIPHY and Gyfcat make sharing and creating GIFs super easy.
These services are integrated into apps like Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and your phone’s keyboard, so they’re just as easy to use as emojis or “stickers.”
But Why The GIF File Format? Why Hasn’t Something Else Come Along?
Honestly, GIF is an outdated format. GIF files are 8-bit, which means that they’re restricted to 256 colors and almost always look like crap.
The GIF format also doesn’t support semi-transparency, and GIFs often have a large file size (more than MP4 video files) because they’re uncompressed.
People have tried to replace the GIF format. They always fail. Mozilla’s APNG (animated PNG) format was created to replace GIF ten years ago, but that didn’t work out.
There are many reasons why GIF has managed to stick around, but for the sake of time, we’re just going to give you the three big reasons now:
All Browsers Are Different: Browsers have their quirks, and sometimes one stinkin’ browser can prevent the web from moving forward. Need a specific example? Mozilla’s APNG format came out in 2008, but the Microsoft Edge browser only began to support the format this year.
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(In other words, if this animation doesn’t work, then you’re using an out-of-date version of the Edge browser.) All browsers have supported animated GIFs for a long time now.
HTML Didn’t Support Video: Before HTML5 launched in 2014, the HTML standard didn’t support video.
It was easier to share GIFs than actual videos, so GIFs stuck around. Many websites used Adobe’s Flash plug-in for videos, but Flash didn’t work on mobile devices like iPhones.
GIFs Are Easy to Make: Why move to a new format when GIFs are so easy to make? GIF-making websites have been around for eons, and you can use most photo editing software to make GIFs.
Don’t worry; things are getting better. To improve the GIF format, websites like Gfycat and Imgur rely on an HTML5 video element extension called GIFV.
This means that GIFs made through (or uploaded to) Gfycat or Imgur aren’t actual GIFs. Instead, they’re MP4 or WebM videos.
They can have sound, use more than 256 colors, and use up less hard drive space than bulky old GIFs.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that all the GIFs on these sites look good. But it does mean that actual GIF files may fall by the wayside over time, probably in favor of MP4 and WebM videos.
How To Use GIFs
Using GIFs is a bit like using emojis. You pick the appropriate GIF for the situation, and you send it. You don’t have to download anything—most social media platforms team up with image hosting sites to make GIFs as easy as possible. The keyboard on your phone probably has a GIF function built right in.
As of right now, here’s the best way to search for and use GIFs:
GIF Search Functions: Most social media websites are built with a GIF search bar. Twitter and Facebook Messenger come to find. These search bars work directly with sites like GIPHY or Imgur, and they make GIFs as easy to use as emojis.
Copy the Link: Image hosting websites like GIPHY, Imgur, and Gifycat have tools for copying GIFs to your clipboard. Just find a GIF that you want and press the “copy link” button. Then, paste the link where you want to use your GIF. On most sites, the GIF will work automatically.
Use Gboard: The Google Keyboard for Android, iPhone, and iPad has a built-in GIF function that allows you to use GIFs anywhere, even text messages.
But what if you want to save GIFs on your phone or computer? Well, you don’t need to do that. Remember, image hosting sites use HTML5 to supercharge GIFs, and all that extra quality goes away when you download a GIF to your computer.
If you need to keep track of individual GIFs, you can make an account on an image hosting site and “Favorite” the GIFs you enjoy.
How to Make Your Own Animated GIF
No matter how you create a GIF, you’ll have to start with a video (unless you’re building a GIF from scratch—don’t worry about that). You could use a video that’s saved to your phone or a video that you found on YouTube; it doesn’t matter.
This video could be long or short; it doesn’t matter. Whatever GIF-making platform you work with will help you trim the video down to a proper GIF. It may even let you add text and effects if you feel so inclined.
Here are the best platforms for creating GIFs:
GIF-Making Websites: There are lots of animated GIF-making websites. We’d suggest using Imgur, Gifycat, or GIPHY’s video-to-GIF tools, as they’re easy to use and produce HTML5 videos that are technically better than actual GIF files.
Upload a video to the GIF creator, or hand it a YouTube or Vimeo link. Then, it’ll give you some options to trim and customize your GIF.
From an App: Yes, you can make GIFs on the go. GIPHY CAM (iOS/Android) and GIF Maker (iOS/Android) are the most popular GIF-making apps.
You drop a video into the GIF maker and trim it to your needs. (You can also make GIFs from the Google Gboard on Android and iOS.)
In a Digital Art Software: You can create GIFs in Photoshop, GIMP, Sketchbook, and other popular digital art applications, but it’s a pain. However, this is a good option if you want a ton of control over your GIF. (keep in mind that websites like Gifycat make HTML5 videos that look better than regular GIFs.)
We suggest using a GIF-making website to avoid any headaches or disappointment. You can copy a link to your GIF and post it around the web from the GIF-making website. Just don’t forget your login information. You could lose track of your GIF forever!
I believe you learned a lot from this article. Kindly leave a comment in the section if you found it helpful.
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