GIF is an acronym. It stands for Graphics Interchange Format, (which is why I will argue the hard “G” pronunciation, but that is irrelevant). The GIF was first introduced in 1987 by CompuServe, the US’s first commercial online service. What it is precisely is a bitmap image format that supports graphics and animations with a limited color palette of 256 colors. It isn’t for complicated images; the color palette is too limited and while the files are compressed in a way that isn’t meant to degrade visual quality, it’s still compressed. And so, the GIF format is better suited for simple images with solid areas of color.

But Oh has the GIF come a long way since 1987.

At first it was convenience. GIFs could store multiple images in one file; hooray! Then CompuServe enhanced their little bitmap nugget to support animation delays. As one of the first two image formats used on websites, GIFs were already a big deal in the 1980’s, but their ability to simplify animations and even interlace image streams is what catapulted them to their current popularity.

GIFs are no longer just convenient; they are entertainment. There are thousands of tumblr blogs dedicated to posting GIFs with amusing captions. They are everywhere and they are about everything; even the election! In fact, there were SO many Presidential GIFs that “How Will The Animated GIF Affect the Presidential Election?” was the topic of one of PBS’ Idea Channel videos. The Oxford English Dictionary officially declared GIF a word, both as a noun and verb, this year. And then on top of it named it Word of the Year saying that GIFs are “a tool with serious applications including research and journalism.”

It’s a tiny, audio-less animation of a cat popping out of a box or a random guy trying to belly flop on a frozen pool, but okay Oxford University Press, if you think GIFs are a big deal, I’m with you.

Of course, GIFs aren’t a form of legitimate animation. They are short, simple, rough, without sound and can be made by anyone. But they are another example of the power of visuals and the shareability of video.

However, we’d encourage you to call a professional like SolidLine Media if you’re in the market for real motion graphics and video production.

Here are some more cats being good at GIFs:





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