No – it’s not a misspelling of the popular household cleaning product – the GIF, or ‘graphics interchange format’ turns the big 3-0 this year. But even if you don’t know what a GIF actually means, you’ll know what it is – it’s the moving image sometimes embedded in emails, Tweets and web pages. They’re usually there to make some hilarious point but they could be as simple as a moving banner on a company website.
The fact that GIFs have been around 30 years, is a milestone worth celebrating – especially in the technologically fickle world we live in (remember mini-discs, HD DVD, and if you’re old enough – Betamax). But what’s the point of them – after all, can’t people just use good old-fashioned words to express how they feel?
Well, clearly not. Visual images – especially ones that are pithy, sharp and sometimes just downright mean, can have far greater impact than words. And on social media platforms where everybody wants to get their point across quickly, GIFs rule – ok?
The GIF is the tech equivalent of Button Moon – a little bit homemade, where a space rocket made of a baked bean tin is the height of advancement. But the GIF’s simplicity, is what’s made it so successful. It can be used across all formats, so if you’ve got something to say, you can say it without having to fiddle around with alternatives (because let’s face it, if you had to do that, the point you were trying to make would probably be rendered pointless).
The world has Steve Wilhite to thank for GIFs – they were his invention way back in 1987 whilst he was working for US internet provider, Compuserve. He left the format open so anyone could make amendments and extend the file – had he not, GIFs probably wouldn’t be the phenomenon they are today. According to the inventor, you pronounce GIFs with a ‘j’ like ‘jif’ but common parlance means that most people say it with a hard ‘g’.
GIF has transformed the way people express themselves so it’s just as well that it’s succeeded where other 80s creations have been consigned to the cupboard of bad ideas (like mullets, legwarmers and jodhpurs).
But whether or not you GIF two hoots about some graphics format, the digital world is the one we live in. Which is why it’s more important than ever to stay connected – so, don’t be like Mr Spoon and his tin can rocket; start comparing and find your own stellar deal for a broadband package that’s genuinely out of this world.