A recent history of The New York Times explaining animated GIFs

October 22, 2013
Category: Uncategorized

Sarah Lyall’s profile of Deadspin editor Tim Burke enraged people on the Internet Tuesday, not only because it explained, in glorious New York Times-ese, what a GIF is, but also because it gave a pronunciation that has spurred some controversy: “A GIF, pronounced jif, is a compressed image file format invented in 1987. In the last decade, the animated GIF has become popular.”

Lyall’s story is not the first time the Times has taken on the task of explaining to readers what a GIF is. The past few years have seen a wealth of attempts at reader enlightenment:

  • Fresh From the Internet’s Attic: “Just as the LP has enjoyed a second spin among retro-minded music fans, animated GIFs — the choppy, crude snippets of video loops that hearken back to dial-up modems — are enjoying an unlikely vogue as the digital accessory of the moment.” (Feb. 13, 2013)
  • Gadgetwise: Q & A: Animating Your Own GIF: “An animated GIF is a special image file created from multiple frames that appear to be moving in a constant loop. You can make them from your own photos with photo-editing software on your computer, a smartphone app or a Web site that converts your uploaded pictures.” (Nov. 6, 2012)
  • Digital Diary: How GIFs Became the Perfect Medium for the Olympics: “GIFs, those simple, short animated images, should have faded into obsolescence as computers and the images they could handle became faster. They belong in a technology boneyard, decaying and forgotten, with their kindred: laserdiscs, VHS tapes, Zip drives.” (Aug. 12, 2012)
  • Instant Loops of Images From an iPhone App: “Animated GIFs — graphics files that display a simple loop of images — may seem like relics of the early Web era, like a Geocities homepage or a Friendster account.” (April 7, 2011)