Yesterday, Twitter quietly announced that animated GIFs could now be uploaded using its native image hosting system on pic.twitter.com. In the past, any animated GIFs would have become static only shown the first frame. Instead, anyone wanting to include an animated GIF in their tweets would have to use a third party service like TwitPic or Imgur to host it.
I suppose it was inevitable that this would happen eventually. Google+ has permitted animated GIFs for some time – indeed, its Auto Awesome feature means that if you upload at least five similar static photos, Google will convert them into an animated GIF for you automatically. And, of course, Tumblr is full of these. I’m guessing it won’t be long before Facebook follows suit.
Whilst animated GIFs currently work on Twitter’s web site, and on its official iOS and Android apps, third-party apps don’t yet support them. So, for example, in Tweetbot, a tweet containing an animated GIF will just have a link back to the tweet itself. But animated GIF support is in Twitter’s public API so third-party clients should be able to add support soon.
I’m personally rather ambivalent about the change. Animated GIFs are a bit crude, especially when it comes to video which is not what the image format was designed for. For example, the GIF that I embedded in this post was originally two megabytes – I cut it down to around 500 kilobytes by reducing the image quality and cutting the framerate. But when compared with the alternatives – HTML5 video or Flash – animated GIFs are more widely supported, with no faffing around with plugins and codecs, so I can see why people prefer them.
Still, you can expect to see more reaction GIFs cropping up in tweets from now on.
And whilst we’re on the subject, I pronounce GIF as ‘jiff’ with a soft ‘g’ sound. Anyone who disagrees is mistaken.