When the public started to use the Internet for the first time, Gif files became instantly popular as a means to display media contents on private homepages and community websites.
Back then, you had not many options when it came to these kind of things. There was no HTML5 for instance and services such as Facebook or Twitter were not there either.
These private homepages vanished over time and the use of animated images on personal homepages dropped significantly and it looked for a moment as if the Gif format was done as well.
Funny cat gifs and the like came along however and saved the format. Gif was an entertainment format now, that thrived on specifically created websites and forums.
There were reasons for that. Browsers played gifs out of the box and while video sites such as YouTube or Dailymotion offered to embed video code into sites, it was not always possible to do so due to limitations.
The popular image hosting website Imgur announced yesterday that it will handle GIF uploads in a different way from now on.
Project GIFV is in essence something that sites such as Gfycat have been offering for some time: the automatic conversion of animated gif files to mp4 video files.
What this means is the following:
Gif files that users upload to the Imgur website are automatically converted into the background to mp4 files. They get the gifv extension but they are essentially mp4 files.
These files play automatically in any modern browser just like gif files do. The main advantage of the method over gif files is that the file size of the animation is lower.
It is not uncommon that a 50 Megabyte gif file converts into a 4 or 5 Megabyte mp4 file instead.
Another advantage is that controls are now available. When you right-click the converted video, you will get pause and stop options among other things which gifs never offered.
If you get annoyed by gifs that play over and over again on your computer you have the means now to stop that playback whenever you want.
There are downsides to this though. First of all, Imgur seems to only convert gifs of a certain size (10 MB plus) to Gifv. I tried files in the 1-3 Megabyte range and all displayed as gifs after the upload and not as gifv or mp4.
Mobile users are complaining about the feature as well. Since mp4 files are delivered, watching them stops audio playback on Android devices for instance currently. Imgur promises that a fix will be available soon for that.
For now, it is an option for users who have a gif source file which they want to make available online. Mp4 or another format may replace gif files eventually, especially on devices that are capable of recording these video formats natively as it does not make sense to record the video on mp4, convert it to gif before it gets uploaded to a site like Imgur and converted back to mp4.
Now You: Do you prefer gif or mp4 or something else entirely?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.