The caveman had cave paintings, the Egyptians had hieroglyph, the Romans had Latin, the digital age has… GIFs?
A GIF (Graphic Interchange Format, if you really wanted to know) is a very simple image sequence. A GIF is a sort of ‘mini video’ that fails because there are only a handful of frames – stitched together with no sound – usually at a bad quality… with the inability to pause… Instead of being viewed as negatives, these seem to be part of their charm. GIFs are hugely popular online, with many having gone viral.
Truly this is a 21st century art form that should be celebrated.
In a world where expressing thoughts with words and actions is quite frankly absurd to younger generations, the GIF has become a handy way to convey our emotions without needing to talk or type.
But what is the history of the GIF?
The origins of the GIF are fairly dull and for those wishing to host a birthday for the GIF, the day is apparently June 15th, 1987. What we do know is that the first viral GIF can be attributed to a man/ hero called John Woodel.
Way back in 1996 John was working as a web developer, tasked with explaining the process of turning a video into a GIF. We can only guess that Jon was a hilarious man, because he chose a terrifying 3D render of a baby doing a dance, which he emailed to his colleagues. This humble GIF then exploded onto countless other web sites, before being picked up by mainstream media, including TV shows, adverts, news-pieces and music videos; becoming a cult figure of the 90’s.
From humble, scary beginnings…
Around this time, websites like Geocity, Myspace and Bebo were giving users the chance to create personalised web pages on an unprecedented scale and this lead to the birth to a huge amount of GIFs as users decorated their profiles, mostly referencing pop culture. In a dark time of dial up, the main reason GIFs became so popular was the fact they require very little bandwidth compared to videos.
If you ever felt like you’d wasted your life, turn your attention to the good people at Gif Cities who have spent many, many hours archiving all of the GIFs created over this time period… You can’t help but marvel at the effort this must have taken and you instantly transported back 15 years, to a time when websites like this were all the rage.
It seems like one thing is for sure: GIFs are here to stay.
The world’s most popular messaging app, Whatsapp, now has an inbuilt feature for searching GIFs so you don’t even need to leave the app to deliver a comical retort, way funnier than anything your mere fingers could write.
The word GIF seems to have morphed into a verb, and the Oxford Dictionary called it the US word of the year in 2012.
(It’s important to mention here that there is a lot of debate surrounding the pronunciation of the world GIF, with the Oxford Dictionary itself arguing it should be said with a hard “G” – although the majority of the internet, and everyone at Studio Giggle prefers a soft G.)
GIFs have evolved to become very relevant in 2018. They are tiny moments, used to reference pop culture as the perfect metaphor. In a digital age of constant communication it’s only natural that we often run out of things to say, and the GIF is a convenient way of expressing ourselves online. There are sites dedicated to aiding the search.
GIFs are part of the fabric of the internet, and long may it continue.
Further reading on this fascinating subject can be found here: https://www.dailydot.com/culture/25-year-anniversary-gifs-collection/