Commonly associated with those animated, looping photographs, the Graphics Interchange Format or GIF turns 30 on June 15 — and Facebook is celebrating by adding the option to find and use GIFs within comments. Facebook is also asking readers that quizzical question, how do you pronounce GIF anyway?
GIF support isn’t new to Facebook, of course, but the company says GIFs have become increasingly popular since support was introduced to Facebook Messenger in 2015, allowing people to chat with GIFs without opening up a web browser to find the appropriate animation. Facebookers shared almost 13 billion GIFs – from cute animations to funny video-like memes – inside the Messenger app in the last year alone, which amounts to about 25,000 per minute. That number is triple the amount of GIFs sent from the previous year, Facebook says.
For GIF’s 30th milestone, Facebook is rolling out the ability to send a GIF in the comments without leaving the platform. The feature, which had been available to select users but is being opened to all global users, just requires tapping the GIF button when commenting, then typing in a few words to find the appropriate GIF – similar to how a GIF is sent in Messenger. Previously, GIFs could only be uploaded to comments by adding a link from Giphy, the GIF library.
Several new GIFs were created for the occasion, in partnership with Giphy. Facebook designed 20 unique GIFs starring internet celebrities, including DNCE, Logan Paul, DREEZY, Amanda Cerny, Wuz Good, Brandi Marie, Landon Moss, Patric Starr, and Violet Benson. Besides comments, these 20 animations are accessible inside the Facebook and Messenger apps, as well as in Giphy (simply search for #GIFparty or head to giphy.com/facebook).
But is GIF pronounced with a hard or soft “g” sound? That’s what Facebook will be asking users in a poll. Despite the file format being around for thirty years, there isn’t a general consensus on whether to pronounce the abbreviation like “gift” (without the “t”) or with a soft “g” as in Jif, the peanut butter brand – how GIF’s inventor, Steve Wilhite, says it’s suppose to be pronounced. The poll will pop up in the Facebook newsfeed, and maybe settle the debate once and for all. (We doubt it.)
The GIF has been around since 1987, making it older than the World Wide Web; it was created by a group of programmers led by Wilhite. At the time, the format became popular for still images because the compression algorithm allowed for colored images to take up less digital space. In fact, the first photo on the web was a GIF. While JPEG has superseded GIF as a default format for photos, and PNGs have become common in recent years, GIF has regained popularity for looping animations and videos and its universal support by browsers. Happy birthday, GIF!