Watch: A short history of the GIF as it turns 30

The GIF turned 30 this year! Popular among reaction-providers and humour-inducers, the GIF is also famous for the debates it sparks every time it’s mentioned – How does one say it?

Created in 1987, the Graphics Interchange Format was the brainchild of Compuserve’s Steve Wilhite. It was his solution for making better performing and smaller sized images of colour. But soon after its creation, there was trouble in the waters for this format, when Unisys, another information technology, claimed to hold the patent for the technology used to create the GIF. This, along with the fact that the GIF only supported a measly 256 colours, meant that this format wasn’t expected to live a long life.

But it survived. Against all odds, the GIF survived its apparent downfall, in the face of PNG (Portable Network Graphics). During the 1990s and early 2000s, the format was used for cheaply made graphics and was associated with poor quality web design. This continued into the 2000s, until 2011, when one can almost decisively say that Tumblr played an important role in “bringing the GIF back.”

The GIF, as we know today, is used for everything – from making a point, expressing an emotion, and conveying a reaction, to just being funny. It is now, not just technology that those comfortable with computers and the internet would use. Platforms like Giphy and Tenorits have made using GIFs an easy process.

But the bottom line, 30 years later, remains, “How do you say G-I-F?” To which, we present to you both views: the first which says that the creator of the format, Steve Wilhite, has announced that it was meant to be pronounced “Jiff”, like the peanut butter; and the second which says that GIF is the acronym for “Graphics Interchange Format”, lending itself the hard G of Graphics – GIF.

Now, you decide!

Updated Date: May 30, 2017 18:44 PM

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