What’s the link between a GIF and Game of Thrones? illustrator and animator Eran Mendel! Throughout Game of Thrones' seven seasons, he has created GIFs, each focussing on an iconic moment of the show and it is really cool to watch. Today, the Internet loves using GIFs. 2017 marks the 30th birthday of this file format. But how did this phenomenon start, what makes it so popular?
When he's not delighting Game of Thrones' fandom, Eran Mendel works with clients around the world on character design, animated explainers, stickers designs and more. See more of his work on his website.
30 Years Ago
When you watch a GIF in a message, have you ever thought how long GIFs have been around?
The GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, was created by Steve Wilhite who worked at Compuserve, a major internet service provider in the US in 1987. The compressed format was the ideal for performing image transfers across the slow modem connections of the time. The format also allowed the use of colour.
Wilhite worked for CompuServe through the 1990s until he retired after suffering a stroke. The company was later bought by AOL in 1998 and allowed the GIF patents to expire, leaving the format open to the public domain.
The animated version arrived in 1995.
The "Dancing Baby," also called "Baby Cha-Cha" was one of the first animated GIFs and it’s a legend. It is one of the first internet memes ever, during the 90s this baby GIF was everywhere - including a starring role in the TV series Ally McBeal.
On a Loop
GIFs are typically used for short animations and low-resolution looping video clips with no sound. They are also used for logos with limited colours.
Popular in the early days of the internet, GIFs have made a resurgence with the rise of social media. The looping clips are commonly found on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as in text messages.
And today we send 25,000 GIFs a minute, just on Facebook Messenger.
How do you pronounce GIF?
The widespread popularity of GIFs hasn't come without controversy. Three decades after it was created, the GIF still causes arguments over pronunciation, with people unable to agree on whether it uses a hard or soft "G".
Wilhite attempted to close the debate in 2013 when he said, once and for all, that it should be said with a soft "G" as in "generous".
"The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations," he said. "They are wrong. It is a soft 'G', pronounced 'jif'. End of story."
David Karp, founder of Tumblr, presents Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF, with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Facebook adds GIFs for comments
To celebrate the anniversary of the GIF, Facebook has added the ability to send GIFs in comments. The social network said 13 billion GIFs were sent on Messenger last year.
"We know people love communicating with GIFs on Messenger, and we’re also making it easier to use GIFs on Facebook. Today we’re introducing the ability to add GIFs in comments for all people on Facebook globally," said a spokesperson.