I find it curious that most things that we think were created just yesterday are ideas that have been around for quite some time (kind of what happens in fashion). The Internet is a powerful tool for mainstreaming things and make them appear new even though it’s not the case. I guess we are just the fools that believe in everything.
Like the first emojis were born in the 80’s, so did GIFs. GIFs have been around for 31 years! (I know, they pass the 30 crisis by now).
So where did GIFs came from and why?
GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and it’s a file format created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite of Compuserve.
The main advantage is that it can be compressed into a light file while still having 256 colors instead of black and white (back in the days). By using Graphics Control Extension to manipulate the GIF, it also became animated through timed delays of images.
However, there was a legal battle for its patent, and as a result, they commercialized it with a fee. Never-less to say, people boycotted the GIF and chose PNG instead, even though it was a static format in comparison.
The rise of the GIF and it’s recent popularity
Early web users adopted GIFs as a different, funny way of communicating on their websites and Tumblr pages. Under construction signs, loading bars and t-rex were very popular in the begging, around the 2000’s.
Also, mainstream culture contributed to maximizing their use. The “peanut butter jelly time” song with the dancing banana on Family Guy is an example that comes to my mind (if you aren’t familiar with it, be careful because the music sticks to your brain).
Nowadays, seems like there’s no stopping the GIF mania. There are GIFs for every taste and personality, and a common practice is to turn celebrities and events into GIFs as a way of critical communication.
From Instagram to Twitter and everywhere in between, either they are retro looking, cute and innocent or come directly from recent events, the GIF is alive and well.
Also published on Medium.