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SXSW 2015: All About That GIF

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For something so simple and not particularly new, GIFs can be surprisingly powerful and, nowadays, ubiquitous. But is that really so surprising? At SXSW this year, a panel comprised of Victoria Taylor of Reddit, Tim Hwang of Imgur, Alex Chung of Giphy and moderator Selena Larson from The Daily Dot came together to discuss all things GIF. Below are just a few of the takeaways.

Why are GIFs everywhere?

  • GIFs capture an emotion or reaction and serve as a vehicle for expressing it. When you find that perfect GIF that describes exactly how you feel better than you can describe with your own words, it can be immensely satisfying.
  • GIFS are unintrusive. As simple loops with no sound, GIFs are quick to load, easy to consume, and you can watch them in public without giving yourself away – except when they make you laugh!
  • GIFs are easy to discover. With search capabilities on Imgur, and simple categorization on Giphy, you can easily find the perfect GIF for any moment.

What is the future of GIFs?

  • GIFs are becoming increasingly common in advertising, and will continue to be an important tool for brands. 360i for example recently partnered with client USA Network and animated GIF keyboard company Popkey to create a GIF keyboard for hit show ‘Suits.’ The mobile keyboard featured GIFs of key scenes from popular episodes and gave fans conversational currency to chat about exciting moments of the show with friends and peers. GIFs are enjoyable, entertaining, whimsical and fun, and their movement captures the eye in cluttered feeds. 80 percent of the GIFs people are watching already come from movies and TV, so entertainment brands in particular should look for GIF-able moments to promote long-form content.
  • GIFs are evolving beyond just an image format. When we think of GIFs, we’re starting to also think of short-form looping video content that can increasingly be found across platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine.
  • GIF creators are reclaiming their intellectual property. Creators include artists and companies who are proud of what they make and want credit – so proper attribution and use will become increasingly important. Giphy, for example, is building attribution into all of the GIFs on their site, and has acquired the rights from studios, for example, to feature their content in GIF form. They can also easily remove a GIF from their site if there is an issue or if they receive a takedown request.

So how do you pronounce it?

Is it GIF with a hard “g” sound or with a soft “j” sound? The panelists didn’t exactly agree. Hwang argued that the soft sound refers to the GIF format whereas the hard sound refers to the GIF culture. Chung argued that the hard sound was used in the 80s and that the soft sound is how we say it in this generation. And Taylor argued that the soft sound is better suited to puns. In the end, it’s not hard to argue that this growing trend is “the GIF that keeps on giffing.”