The GIF File Format

GIF files are a type of raster image similar to jpegs. They are most commonly found online and famous for their ability play short animations. That animated meme that keeps getting emailed around the office is most likely a gif.


Gifs were originally created to help reduce the size of images on the web. As a raster file they are made up of thousands of tiny colored dots. When saving web files we are often left trying to decide between a gif and a jpeg. Many tests of been conducted on which file time is better and the answer is, it depends. Jpegs usually produce a smaller file size while maintaining clarity. Gifs perform better when the graphic being saved is simple with fewer colors.

Due to the benefits of the jpeg formats, gifs were being used significantly less until a resurgence of gif animation. As you can see in the image below, gifs are able to play short clips of video, even though its not technically a video format. The resurgence of these pixelated and choppy video loops has been propelled by social media. Its not common to find gifs in online advertising, fashion sites, facebook posts, and even screen tutorials.

When to Use:

  • On occasion, gifs are the right choice for simple web graphics.
  • Gifs are always great for sharing on social media.

GIPHY is known as the largest source of user created animated gifts. Beware: You can waist a lot of time.