The GIF format remains a popular file format for animating images. However, the technology hasn’t changed since 1987, and its limitations are starting to show. Which is why the image hosting website, Imgur, is launching an update to the GIF format that’s designed to work in a modern Web experience.
“It’s a little known fact, but the GIF format was never intended for animation in the first place,” said Tim Hwang, head of Special Initiatives at Imgur. “With Project GIFV, Imgur is reimagining the looping GIF video with all the richness it deserves as a key piece of Internet culture.”
Called Project GIFV, the GIF files uploaded to the service are automatically converted into the MP4 video format, which are smaller individual GIF files, have improved quality, and load faster. Although the new file is an MP4 video, Imgur says it behaves exactly like a GIF file (GIFV files will have the “.gifv” extension), which means it’ll automatically play and loop. But videos not only look better than standard GIFs, they are smoother as well, and you can control it like video (right-click on an image to bring up controls).
There are advantages too. With the new format, users can upload animated GIF uploads up to 50MB, which then gets compressed into the smaller GIFV file. Imgur says GIFV files will also animate on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, which only display animated GIFs as static images.
In the moving GIFV image shown above, the quality resembles a high-quality video file, because it is, yet it functions like an animated GIF. But if it were an animated GIF file, it would have been 50MB; GIFV drops it to 5MB. A comparable animated GIF file at the same smaller file size would look tiny on the page.
Imgur says it “plans to submit an accompanying specification to relevant standards organizations before the end of the year,” so we could see it becoming a new standard.