Giving it up for the GIF: Happy birthday, GIF – you are an Internet treasure!

Today is one of the Internet’s favorite days: It’s the anniversary of the animated GIF. The animated GIF was first brought into existence in 1987, which means I’m a mere two months older than one of the best things to ever happen to the Web (it was a good year, right?). Thank you, Compuserve!

As a tribute, we’re going to explore the brief yet significant history of the GIF … in GIF form, no less. Would you have it any other way?

The GIFs that started it all 

Yes, that’s right, the Dancing Baby. This thing has probably haunted your dreams, and any remaining Ally McBeal fans out there can hardly contain themselves (that show was a tentpole, OK? Don’t be ashamed).

While the freakishly delightful Dancing Baby may have been one of the first GIFs to steal pop culture attention and some Internet fame, the first ever GIF was this spinning globe.

Underwhelming? Yeah, it is, but show some respect.

Also incredibly popular were some of these simple – yet timeless – animated GIFs. Do you remember weeping in frustration anytime you saw an “Under Construction” GIF?! It was like you’d reached the end of the Internet. 

Web 1.0 GIFs

Remember those spinning email GIFs? And that rotating @ sign? Oh yeah, those were at one point the cool new kids on the Internet block. Right up with the “You Got Mail!” ping that will echo in your ears for the rest of your life. It is seriously an inescapable phrase, just like these Web 1.0 GIFs.

Email you? With that sweet, sweet graphic you know I will!

The hell yeah Geocities and MySpace! GIFs

Something changed with the advent of Web 2.0 – actually, a lot of something’s changed (thank InternetJesus, right?). Suddenly the Internet wasn’t as limited; people were making things with it, and publishing them on it. And those things included animated GIFs.

Seeing some of these masterpieces is taking you back to middle and high school, right? When you had an active, thriving LiveJournal community you and your group of friends established and kept on going far past when was acceptable? Right?! Just me?

That’s fine, I regret nothing. Nothing like some glittering graphics to spice up your MySpace – make all those suckers with bathroom pics look like n00bz. Pwned.

There were some dark times in here, though. Web 2.0 may have brought with it some GIF holdovers from early days, slapped them onto a handful of new properties – but the onslaught of sites like Facebook did – temporarily – kill the party a little. For but a brief moment, our sun was eclipsed.

But then everything was fine because the Internet remembered, “Oh yeah that’s right, these things are amazing and I don’t ever want to live in a world without them!”

A new day has dawned

We are living in the Golden Age of the GIF. You can’t go a day without seeing an achingly adorable round-up of puppy GIFs, or a mind-boggling how-to GIF, or a series of GIFs accompanying a news report.

And just because it’s the GIF’s birthday (26! You look so good! I bet you still get carded!) and to satisfy our own sick cravings for the stuff, we’re going to have to offer a sampling of the Web’s favorite types of GIFs.

Tumblr art GIFs

At the heart of the GIFolution is Tumblr. The new-gen blogging platform has courted a creative userbase that not only lives and dies by every other GIF type listed below, but spends ample time creating their own. Tumblr has even held a GIF festival, and there are slew of hardworking Tumblrers out there creating GIFs that get their start on the site. 

My Reaction When GIFs

A My Reaction When or (MRW) GIF is maybe one of the most approachable, most democratic of the GIFs. It doesn’t need much explanation, but I will indulge: A MRW GIF is a graphic that explains how you would feel about something. For instance, this post

TV show GIFs

Aaah, television and the Internet, Americans’ two greatest loves! The most devoted of fans create, collect, and share animated GIFs from their favorite TV shows like it’s a bad habit. A very, very good bad habit that I am personally thankful for. 

Sports GIFs

Within the last year or so, the sport GIF has become a staple of not just fan sites and Tumblrers, but of the big boys: Deadspin, ESPN, and Bleacher Report are all loving the GIF madness. Whether it be the unintentionally hilarious things players do on the court (looking at you, Javale McGee! You are a GIFspiration to us all) or a quick way to insert an impressive play, games and GIFs were made for each other. 

Animal GIFs

No explanation necessary. Animals are adorable/hilarious, GIFs are addictive, it’s a potent, powerful, dangerous combination. 

Selfie GIFs

Oh damn, you can now make GIFs of your own stupid face. Not that this wasn’t possible before, but the many mobile and Web apps that give you the ability to easy to do this and then publish them where you please has only relatively recently been introduced. 

How-to GIFs

GIFs aren’t all fun and games (and more fun) – they are also serious business. There’s something about the replaying element and slowed down, steadiness of a how-to GIF that walks you through the steps better than a video. No need for pause – because you know it’ll make its way back to the stop you need repeated all on its own. 

Explanatory GIFs

Another no-nonsense (or less nonsense) use of the animated GIF is to accompany a news report or study. Sure, you and I both know we could look at Nyan Cat all day long, but the creative, visually stimulating uses that news publications have started using GIFs for is a great application of the medium. The Atlantic’s use of the GIF below to illustrate the spread of Marijuana in the U.S. certainly lends credence to the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words (making a GIF worth something like 100 million). 

There you have it. Whether you pronounce it hard G or soft (or correctly or incorrectly, as everyone good and true sees it), litter your blog with them or just peruse others’, we owe a lot to the GIF. Happy birthday, you heroin-like graphic format you! This junkie wouldn’t know how to go without. 

(No I don’t.)

Social Media

Facebook will pay to spy on you, but you can make more money elsewhere

Facebook's new Study app will track how you use your phone and provide that data to the social media giant. The company will even pay you for it — but likely not very much, especially compared to the market rate for your personal…
Social Media

Here's how to link your Instagram, Facebook accounts for social syncing

Instagram and Facebook go hand in hand. Here's how you can make the most of the superior integration offered by the two social media behemoths, which should help your pics gain more exposure in the long run.
Social Media

These are the best ways to make your own animated GIF to share

Love sharing GIFs with your friends and peers, but wish you could make your own? Here's how to do so in Photoshop, or using a few other methods that don't require you to shell out a premium fee with each calendar year.
Social Media

Zuckerberg may have known more about Facebook’s privacy scandal than we thought

In the midst of an ongoing investigation into Facebook's Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, a new report suggests that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have known about the company's much-criticized approach to privacy.
Mobile

Bored with your Snapchat username? Here's how to change it

We've all been there. You're setting up a new account and just type in whatever pops into your head as a username. Then, later on, you realize that was a mistake. Here's how to change your Snapchat username.
Mobile

Get together with your buddies, talk, and play games with Snapchat's group chat

You can get your friends together for a good time, even if they are hundreds of miles away, by starting up a group chat on Snapchat. Here's how to make a group chat on Snapchat and get the party started.
Cars

Tesla screens may support YouTube with next software update

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced today at E3 that the infotainment screens will support YouTube video streaming very soon. This most likely lines up with the latest software update that is expected later this year.
Social Media

Instagram is back up after being offline. Here’s the latest on the outage

Instagram finally came back online Thursday afternoon after an outage that lasted just over an hour. The Instagram outage was one of several that hit at the same time, including a several-hour failure at the PlayStation Network.
Social Media

Facebook’s comment-ranking system aimed at taming the dumpster fire

Even by the standards of the internet, Facebook comments are famously awful. Now Facebook is introducing a new comment ranking system to attempt to tackle this problem by promoting quality comments and hiding low quality ones.
Photography

Adobe concocts an A.I. that can detect — and reverse — manipulated photos

The company behind the software that's often used to manipulate photographs may help make it easy to spot a fake photo. Researchers at Adobe recently created an artificially intelligent program that can recognize fake photos of faces.
Social Media

Kim Kardashian can get a deepfake taken off YouTube. It’s much harder for you

YouTube took down an incredibly realistic — and fake — video purporting to show Kim Kardashian West discussing a shadowy organization called “Spectre” and mocking her fans for violating copyright.
Social Media

Maybe you missed something, so here's how to take another look at that Snap

The people you follow on Snapchat are important to you. If you get frustrated when you're trying to look at a friend's Snap or Story and it disappears, here's how to replay a Snapchat message or post.
How-To

You can delete Snapchat messages in a snap with these simple tips

If you've ever sent a message to someone and wish you could delete it, Snapchat has a feature you'll like. Yes, it lets you delete messages you've already sent. There are some limitations, though. Here's how to delete Snapchat messages.
News

Brush up on your makeup skills with YouTube’s new augmented reality feature

YouTube will soon let users try on makeup while watching popular makeup tutorials through augmented reality. Viewers will be able to actually try on the makeup products the online tutorials are showcasing and promoting.