Love it or hate it (and regardless of how you choose to pronounce it), the GIF probably isn’t going anywhere.
Not too long ago, the GIF had become something of a joke around the Internet. No modern-minded web designer would incorporate GIFs into their designs, lest they wanted to become the butt end of a million “Under Construction” jokes.
Then came the spread of high-speed Internet, allowing longer, higher quality GIFs to be loaded on the fly. More importantly, then came a massive shift in how content on the Internet is created; suddenly, the stuff the users added to a site or service — the comments, the blog posts, the tweets — became just as important as anything the site itself could provide. Then came the reaction GIFs, the meme GIFs, and GIFs of animals doing adorable things. The GIF spread like a virus across a billion tumblrs — and just like that, a once lampooned format that had been around since the late 80’s was in the middle of a resurgence.
You’d still be hardpressed to find a web designer who will tack a GIF into his shiny new site — but the users? They couldn’t care less. In many ways, GIFs are far easier to share than videos. They’re more immediate (in that they don’t generally require user interaction), and generally compatible with more devices. In terms of effort-required vs. emotion-conveyed, GIFs are pretty much your best bang for the buck.
And yet, making GIFs is still a bit of a pain. At least, it’s harder than it needs to be. There are about a million websites and apps that offer to take, say, a YouTube clip and convert it into a GIF; alas, about 999,999 of those are bad news in one way or another. Some are filled with spyware. Some throw obnoxious watermarks all over everything they spit out. Many just plain don’t work. There are some good ones out there, but they tend to disappear as quickly as they pop up. Still, these third-party sites shouldn’t even need to exist.
That YouTube has yet to fix this, to embrace the GIF as a sharing mechanism, seems a bit crazy.
I threw together a quick example of how it could look. In GIF form, of course:
So, what’s in it for YouTube?
1) Easy Traffic: “Source?” With any good GIF, it’s the first question people ask. If they made it so that the provided image code links back to the original YouTube video, it’s easy traffic from someone who’s clearly interested in seeing this specific video.
2) Data: If multiple users all make GIFs of roughly the same part of a video, you know that part of the video is particularly interesting for some reason. Tada! That’s free data that could be used for calculating when to place ads.
Make it so, YouTube. I have GIFs to make.