GIFs are a form of moving image exclusive to the Internet. They are often used for comic purposes, but have also been repurposed as decorations for websites and as forms of art. Not all GIFs are animated however, and the word ‘GIF’ refers to the file format and not any movement.
GIF stands for “Graphics Interchange Format”. It is a type of data known as bitmap format and was first introduced by American company Compuserve in 1987. Older GIFs tend to have a limited 256-colour palette, while newer incarnations can express almost the same colour depth as video. It is even possible now to turn YouTube videos into GIFs (but with no sound).
The animated GIF works by playing a series of frames, rather like a flipbook or an old cinema reel. The frames are arranged in order and played continuously, giving the impression of movement of the GIF’s subject.
GIFs have graced everything from webpages and email letters to Facebook and Tumblr. Their versatility, creativity and portability have earned them the cult following of millions of web users and it is no surprise that a writer with technology website Mashable felt that GIF should really stand for “Great Internet Fun”.
Here at Gifville, you’ll be seeing plenty of Great Internet Fun!!