We have all devoted significant chunks of our existence to watching GIFs, so today, as Graphical Interchange Format turns 30 years old, let us take a look at how it all began.
This has been the cornerstone of the debate around this technology. Is it pronounced 'JIFF', 'GIF' or something else? The debate goes back to the cave walls during the Old Stone Age and more recently has continued on Reddit forums. It is yet to be settled.
In 1976, Steve Wilhite began working on the format at a company called Compuserve. One of the objectives was to develop a graphical format that would work across different computing platforms such as IBM, Apple, and Atari.
The format took its first shape in 1987, before the birth of the Internet by Tim-Berners Lee. GIF was also developed to carry images across the network without much loss in quality. The speed of the networks at the time was very slow and other formats such as JPEG were also under development.
The now popular animated GIF was made in 1995 by the Netscape browser team. The dancing baby was the one that first went viral on the Internet.
One of the early origins of GIFs was traced to the famous photography of race horses by Muybridge as well.
The current usage
Almost every social network and keyboard app now have the support for GIFs. Most messengers, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, now even have the ability to search for them from the app itself. GIFs have been identified as a cultural phenomenon. If you log on to the Internet, you can't spend a few minutes without spotting one.
Facebook is celebrating the occasion with a bunch of new features. One of them is a much-sought permission to post GIFs in comments. Additionally, GIPHY has created some exclusive GIFs to celebrate the occasion.
If you want a deep dive into more popular GIFs and the stories behind them, including interviews of artists, you should check out Historyofthefgif.com. Last year there was an exhibition called 'Loop dream' around this format as well. Here's to another 30 years of staring at GIFs when we should be... staring at GIFs, actually.