GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format and is a file type used for images. Compared to a JPEG, GIFs can often provide a better copy of an original image. Today, they are primarily used to display looping animations.
The GIF was invented approximately 31 years ago by Steve Wilhite and are commonly used today across many websites, social networks, message applications, and within a greater variety of user-generated content.
GIFs can be found for any topic on popular sites like Giphy, which as of 2016 was worth over $600 million.
Upon their creation, their purpose was to standardise images by compressing them to minimise bandwidth use. Nowadays, GIFs are multiple frames of images within one file played on a continuous loop, making them animated.
Today, people often use GIFs to create dynamic and emotional replies to messages on social media by representing facial expressions or reactions that are typically lost when communicating online.
Around 300 million people share over 2 billion GIFs every month. Since they are compressed images, they are of lower visual quality than traditional images and are much smaller to download compared to Java or Flash files. This makes them more useable as they can be transmitted fast between users. They are also easy to save and therefore people can share them across multiple platforms.
The word itself has caused disagreements amongst the Internet community, with debate arising over whether it should be pronounced as ‘gif’ or ‘jif’. The creator insisted that he chose the latter pronunciation based on a brand of peanut butter. However, the jury is still out, so worldwide pronunciation still varies
GIFs can be useful for businesses conveying ideas. Since they are visual, loop a single animation and can be shared easily, GIFs can quickly become viral.
They are also a valuable opportunity for businesses to communicate in a fresh and interesting way. Used in the right context, they can act as an important tool to engage current and new audiences with your brand, products and services.