What Is the History of the GIF?

Oh, GIFs, how may we ever seize all of our human feelings with out them? In spite of everything, nothing actually expresses our pleasure on Friday night time like a GIF of Beyoncé dancing. 

(Credit score: GIPHY) Beyoncé Dancing

After all, they’re additionally there for encapsulating more durable feelings light-heartedly, like our noon breakdowns which might be conveniently represented by GIFs of an lovely child or pet throwing a mood tantrum.

What Is a GIF?

The perfect half about these GIFs is the moment commentary and reactions that they supply with out having to sort out a single phrase. The graphics interchange format, which is what GIF stands for, is a straightforward method to talk within the twenty first century, making it a preferred go-to worldwide.

Whereas animated GIFs could have began peaking in 2013, the historical past of GIFs traces again to over 35 years in the past. Right here’s the actual purpose GIFs have been invented and the way, over three many years later, they turned the favored and hilarious web sensation that completes our favourite group chats at this time.

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The Actual Motive GIFs Have been Invented

To grasp why the GIF was created, we should first delve into the darkish ages of the World Broad Net. Earlier than the general public gained full entry to the Net, which accommodates all of the textual content, photographs, video clips, animations and primarily, every little thing we’d like, there have been on-line service firms that fulfilled our needs.

CompuServe emerged as a frontrunner of on-line companies in America in 1979 and supplied customers the power to entry e mail and switch information with hourly subscriptions, per WIRED. 

But, the issues of pace and area saved creeping up, particularly as customers tried to switch colourful photographs that have been too giant for the pc methods on the time to deal with. Pc scientist Stephen Wilhite and his workforce at CompuServe have been tasked to resolve this subject by compressing photographs whereas nonetheless retaining their colour and sharpness, in line with Smithsonian Journal. However what they didn’t know then was that by doing so, they might create a picture format that may stay on for many years, now referred to as the GIF.

In 1987, Wilhite created the graphics interchange format by utilizing a compression algorithm. He obtained the order to take action from CompuServe govt Alexander Trevor.

“We didn’t wish to need to put up photographs in 79 totally different codecs,” stated Trevor on the urgent want for a common graphics format for CompuServe within the Eighties, in line with Quick Firm. On the time, the GIF rapidly turned the quickest method to maintain and switch a slideshow of a number of nonetheless photographs in colour. Whereas the photographs weren’t animated like they’re at this time, it was nonetheless doable to weave the nonetheless photographs collectively to inform a narrative, just like a digital flipbook.

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However how did GIF precisely get to the thrilling animation loop stage that makes it a viral sensation at this time? Nicely, the rave critiques of GIF’s talents rapidly unfold, and shortly sufficient, net builders began using GIFs as a vital a part of their site-building processes. 

Within the Nineties, information surfaced that the compression algorithm Wilhite had used to create GIFs, referred to as Lempel-Ziv-Welch, had already been patented by an organization referred to as Unisys, per As a result of Unisys needed to cost a charge for any use of GIFs, a full-on patent struggle broke out that put a short lived halt on the fast-growing GIF and led builders to lean into different file codecs like PNG. That’s till GIFs made their wonderful return to fame within the early 2000s.

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The Evolution of GIFs

By the point the patents on GIFs had expired and the patent struggle had ceased, it was already 2004, and the Net had fully advanced. With the rise of early 2000s social media platforms like Fb, Myspace and YouTube, and the smartphone craze, GIFs began to make a comeback on-line.

New enhancing software program like Photoshop additionally made it simpler to rework the GIF from a group of nonetheless photographs to a looped video, per Vox. This led to the fast creation and rise of all of the several types of GIFs we’re conversant in at this time, together with video, animation and sticker GIFs.

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Response GIFs, which have been primarily video-based, quickly took over on the spot messaging and social media apps. The video GIFs have been typically fast, humorous clips from a film or T.V. scene. These GIFs’ on the spot supply and relatability made them much more in style. As an example, NBC’s well-known T.V. present “Associates” created a number of GIFs primarily based on favourite scenes and contours from characters on the present on the GIPHY Channel, which accommodates a database of GIFs. Although the collection finale aired in 2004, GIFs from the present proceed to stay on and have generated practically 1 billion views, in line with Giflytics.

In 2013, as GIFs reached their prime, Stephen Wilhite was acknowledged for his achievement in creating the GIF and offered with a Lifetime Achievement Webby Award by the Worldwide Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. In response to The New York Instances, Wilhite additionally put a relaxation to the continuing debate about GIF’s pronunciation on the time, which he confirmed ought to sound like ‘JIF,’ with a tender ‘G’ when stated aloud. 

At present, Wilhite’s creation has withstood over three many years of modifications. Whereas the way forward for GIFs stays unclear, the looping picture format stays related in our group chats and on social media.

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