The glorious GIF renaissance.

Christina Hendricks in Mad Men (A Deskarati Favourite)

Every outdated format has its cult. In the case of vinyl LPs or Polaroid film, the cults are substantial, but even cassettes, Laserdiscs, and Minidiscs have their own collectors, proponents, and preservationists. All of these people might, to some degree, regard their pet formats as orphans—under-loved and that much more lovable for it—of technology’s ceaseless forward march. As the march heads further and further into digital territory, though, a question arises: Can a similar kind of love attach to outdated online formats, which briefly saturated our daily lives but can’t be handled, sought out at garage sales, and proudly displayed on a shelf? In the case of the GIF, at least, the answer is yes.

GIFs (the name stands for graphics interchange format and can be pronounced with either a hard or soft G) began life in the mid-’80s, image files so efficiently compressed that sluggish Internet connections (which is to say, every connection back then) could download them speedily. When most people use the term GIF today, however, they mean it as shorthand for animated GIFs. Animated GIFs are synonymous with the Internet’s mid-’90s, pre-Flash era, when individuals and major corporations alike festooned Web sites with flickering borders, banners, and graphics, all playing on tight, endless loops. More recently, animated GIFs became key chintzy building blocks in the chaotic, almost instantly passé visual architecture of MySpace user pages. Among Mark Zuckerberg’s less controversial moves is that he’s shunned animated GIFs from Facebook user pages, like a school principal banning “flashy and/or inappropriate” clothing from classrooms.

Read more here Slate Magazine.

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