What is a GIFs?

They are actually called a GIF which stands for Graphic Interchange Format and they are basically just image files, just like a JPEG or PNG and they also have no sound. The main difference is that they can be made into moving images so they can communicate a lot more than static images like JPEGs. Anyone that uses a mobile phone to send messages has probably either sent or recieved a GIF at some point. In this blog post, we will look at what GIFs are, their history, how they work, and their role in modern communication.

A Brief History of GIFs

What is a GIF

GIFs were introduced in the late 1980’s by CompuServe, a commercial online service provider, as a way to display simple animations and graphics on early computer systems. Their GIF format quickly gained popularity because of its efficiency and compatibility with different platforms. To start with GIFs were used for simple animations on websites but as we 

headed into the early 2000s GIFs started to evolve and become widely used in the format that we still see today. Improvements in internet speed and faster processors in laptops and phones meant that they coudl be used a lot more and they became a lot more creative.

How do GIFs Work: GIFs are a unique type of digital image file that supports animation and short video clips. They are built on the concept of frame-based animation which means they are made up of multiple frames, each of which is a separate image. Each image is displayed in a certain order to create the illusion of a moving image. They are essentially a digital flip book like children make

Lossless Compression: GIFs use a form of lossless compression, even though this sounds really complicated it essentially means that image quality is not lost during the compression process. This means that although GIFs are quite a small file size they are able to maintain reasonably good quality.

Looping: One of the most well known features of GIFs is that they loop continuosly, playing the same graphic over and over again. This is why they are used so much in social media and messaging apps

Types of GIFs

GIFs have developed over time and now get used on a variety of different platforms, to cope with this they now come in different forms:

Reaction GIFs: These are probably the most common type of GIF seen today and they feature short, often humorous animations or clips that people use to express their emotions, reactions, or opinions in online conversations. They have become a staple of social media and messaging platforms, providing a fun and relatable way to respond to messages and posts.


Cinemagraphs: These are a unique type of GIF that combines static imagery with looping motion. They create a mesmerizing effect by isolating specific elements within a photo or video and animating them while keeping the rest of the scene still, cinemagraphs are often used in advertising to get your attention.

Informational GIFs: These can also be used as infographics or data visualizations, are used to convey complex information or statistics in a visually engaging and easy-to-understand manner. 

Creating and Editing GIFs

Creating GIFs has become easier than ever but there are two main ways to do this:

Use a GIF Database:  If you use a mobile phone and use the messaging apps you will more than likely have seen the search function for GIFs, you simply tap on the GIF icon and then type in the search box what you want to display.  Most mobile phone systems use one of the two biggest GIF database companies available, either Giphy or Tenor. Both of these have databases with 1000’s of GIFs available. Both of these are available online too and can be used for adding GIFs to presentations or websites, you can also find GIFs in many of the PowerPoint Template packages such as Expert Slides that have a really good range of GIFs in a dedicated section.

Create Your Own GIF: You can also create your own GIF as there are various user friendly software systems such as Adobe Photoshop and Giphy that support this function using the process below:

  1.  Find your source material such as a video clip or image 
  2. Load it into the software system
  3. Edit the image, add any message you want to display and set the loop option
  4. Optimize your GIF and export to your chosen 
  5. Share it on social media, add it into your website or send it to your friends


How Are GIFs Mainly Used

The use of GIFs is so common now that they have almost become a separate language, I have seen people have a complete conversation without speaking but simply by sending GIFs back and forth to each other. They have really become one of the most common ways for people to express themselves and are used in various different formats depending on the circumstances.

Expressive Emoticons: GIFs are most commonly used as moving emoticons or emojies, they take the standard emojie and add extra emotion to it so you can almost hear the response of the other person


Memes and Viral Content:
 Because GIFs are so easy to create they are regularly used to create memes really fast in response to worldwide events, as such they can travel the world and go viral almost faster than the initial story

Marketing and Advertising: Businesses have noticed the power of GIFs and now use them in advertising and as they know they the right meme or GIF can go viral and generate massive amounts of free advertising for them

They Have Become a Great Communication Tool

GIFs really have been embraced by modern culture and they have developed from simple animations for computers into an essential part in our communication tool box. Their ability to convey emotions without sound and in really short files make them a really fun and informative way to send messages or communicate with friends. If you want to expand this and build them into your professional presentations they are a really good tool to use and you can check out my post on How to Add GIFs into PowerPoint for more help. So if you are thinking about using them I would encourage you to embrace the GIF revolution and jump into the world of animated images

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any feedback please leave a comment below



2 thoughts on “What is a GIFs?”

  1. Hi, what an interesting and entertaining article. I never knew the background to GIFs and to be able to analyze everything about them is really satisfying. I can now use GIFs more expertly following reading and understanding your article. I would be interested to know where you learned about GIFs yourself. Thanks Alan.

    • Hi Alan,

             Thanks for your feedback, I was trying to figure out the best way to use them in a presentation that I was doing and noticed a lot of searches asking what they were and where to get them so I decided to find out a bit more about them,  Once I found out I thought I would share the information, it was also how I found out that my children know a lot more about GIFs and a lot of other emoticons than I do 🙂

      Thanks again for your feed back



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