Blog Post

The tussle over animated GIFs

Today brought a bit of good news from Facebook: The social media mecca has begun rolling out photo comments. Users will now be able to respond to comments with an upload of their favorite cat reaction photo.

But GIFs aren’t allowed.

PhotoCommentsFacebookShortly after Facebook’s announcement, I hit my own Facebook page to upload rogue comments of one of my favorite GIFs: a Japanese Chin with eyebrows stuck to its face. But right after I clicked post, the dog with eyebrows didn’t twirl a single time.

A representative from Facebook confirmed that for now, photo comments work for still images only.

Animated GIFs are polarizing among social-media platforms. They’ve had a meteoric rise on Tumblr, where millions of users share everything from cats hiding in boxes to dramatic scenes from Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. But they’ve  struggled to share space on other big social-media sites.

Twitter famously banned GIFs from profile icon photos in the fall of last year, and will often lock up if a GIF is natively uploaded via its photo service, so the chances of an animated image making its way into the Twitter stream is low. Instagram also lacks animated photos.

FacebookGIFCommentWhy is the GIF so beloved by users yet so maligned by platforms? A lot of the trouble is the sheer amount of space a GIF takes up compared to a photo — a trouble spot many Tumblr devotees have had to overcome when uploading their own GIFs, as the website has a strict limit of 1MB in file size.

Twitter ultimately nixed the GIF user icons specifically because they were slowing down the API of the platform. Considering the volume of Facebook’s user pool, it’s likely that floods of GIFs would increase load times and even break browsers on occasion.

But these troubles haven’t stopped the GIF from becoming a popular tool for self expression, and I have already seen many Facebook users as disappointed with their frozen photos as I was with poor eyebrow dog.

6 Responses to “The tussle over animated GIFs”

  1. LOL. You speak as if GIF’s are some sort of new trend. I made my first GIF’s way back in ’99 in Adobe Image Ready, as an active community member of The GIF trend is not new, that’s just a poor excuse for the community devs not being able to tackle it.

  2. nubwaxer

    because only my niece and sister in law are my fb friends i feel like i am imposing on them by posting anything so i quit. my other fb friends on my other two accounts are chinese and china blocks fb. basically i’m out.

  3. Allen Heffley

    Awe and I really wanted to put that Nintendo/Playstation/Xbox one on Facebook (Men in Black Will smith & Tommy Lee Jones are Nintendo/Playstation, putting on sunglasses. Xbox is a fat nerd trying to put on sunglasses too but pokes himself in the eye).

  4. There’s no great mystery here. Facebook, despite being such a juggernaut, has always been behind in the realm of features. And rather like old media, when they roll out something, uh, “new”, they seem to take two steps back. Think of how we had color films, yet when the TV was invented, it was black and white, color came later.

    Given this trend, animated GIFs for facebook comments will be rolled out around the time everyone else is exciting about reading books again.