Um, finally. Twitter today announced a small, but SUPER AWESOME change to its social network: It will now support the ever-popular animated GIF format. The change, the company says, is live as of today on the Twitter.com website, Android and iPhone.
The company made the announcement via a tweet (of course) where it demonstrated what the animated GIF would look like.
That GIF itself pokes fun at the ongoing debate about the pronunciation of the word “GIF.” Some, like the format’s inventor Steve Wilhite, say that it should be pronounced “JIF,” like the peanut butter. But a whole bunch of us got comfortable with saying “GIF” with a hard “G,” and don’t like change.
In Twitter’s demo GIF, someone starts typing the word “GIF” with a “J,” as a little inside joke to those in the know.
— Twitter Support (@Support) June 18, 2014
The company is also rolling out GIF support to its API, it seems, which would allow third-party developers to offer similar support in their client applications.
Many social networks today, including Tumblr and even Pinterest, have added support for animated GIFs as the format grew in popularity. Facebook and Twitter, however, have been big exceptions. (There were workarounds, however, as with Giphy’s URL shortener, for instance.)
It’s worth noting that Facebook made a very conscious decision to not support GIFs because the company believes it would make the news feed too chaotic, and it’s already waging war against memes. Instead, only natively uploaded Facebook videos, Instagram videos and premium video ads can auto-play in the Facebook feed today. Whether Twitter’s move to support GIFs will influence Facebook’s decision here remains to be seen.
There’s some possibility that Twitter, too, could become a bit overwhelmed with GIFs as the change goes live across the site, and everyone starts testing the waters. But it also makes sense in terms of Twitter’s larger goal to become a more rich-media-focused service, as it moves away from being known only for its 140-character text updates.