I’m convinced that the animated GIF reveals something about humanity. Present your average person with a repetitive moving picture and they’ll become absolutely entranced. I’ve lost many hours of my life to dancing bears and dogs doing barrel rolls.
Despite this, there’s no GIF-equivalent of YouTube. In fact, browsing Google for sites offering animated GIFs will introduce you to website train-wrecks that look as if they haven’t been updated since the Geocities era. But I have good news – I’ve found a few sites that are worth your time.
This website is the safe-for-work version of 4GIFs, a website that tends to cater towards animated gifs of – you guessed it – pornography.
Despite this, everything about Forgifs.com appears quite tame, and the library of GIFs on this site is quite intimidating. At the time of this writing there are almost 250 pages of them, with 12 on a page. I’ll do the math for you – that’s about 3,000 GIFs.
Using the website is simple. There’s no registration, no commenting system and no voting system. This means the site runs quickly on any computer, which is good, because large animated GIFs can be difficult for older computers to handle.
GIF Bin is similar to Forgifs.com, but implemented in an entirely different manner. While both websites are essentially libraries, GIF Bin includes all of the social features you’d expect. There’s voting, commenting and social network connectivity.
There’s no shortage of content, either. New GIFs seem to be updated frequently, and a fair number of them are new content that even Internet veterans will be surprised to see. The content on this site is generally safe for work.
My favorite feature is the random GIF button. It does what it says, and is a great way to kill a few minutes. Or hours.
YouTube videos can make great animated GIFs. If you search for videos of people performing ill-advised stunts you’ll soon run into plenty of moments that are worthy of being immortalized by the repetition of an animated GIF.
That’s what GIF Soup does. You can use the site to create your own if you’d like, though registration is required. Browsing, on the other hand, can be done anonymously. Unlike many other sites, GIF Soup makes an attempt to categorize content, which has its benefits but also takes away the magic of running into an awesome GIF by accident.
As YouTube does not allow adult content, this website also lacks adult content. If you’re looking for a kid-safe and work-safe GIF site, this is your best option.
Having weaved our way through some relatively mundane GIF sites, we’re now going to delve into the darker side with GIF Tube.
The name suggests this might be another YouTube copying site, but it’s nothing of the sort. Instead, it’s a typical GIF library. However, the site does allow adult content. This is filtered out by default, but it is easily enabled with the click of a single link. In addition, this site’s definition of what is not adult is pretty loose. Don’t visit this site at work or around anyone who might find such content objectionable.
There are only a few categories and no random GIF button, but this site presents visitors with more thumbnailed GIFs on a page than any other. If you like to browse by thumbnail, this is your site. In addition, the site has an excellent selection of content. You’ll find not only many “classic” animations but also a lot that you probably have not encountered elsewhere.
Any serious round-up for animated GIF sites has to make mention of 4Chan. The anonymous image posting site has an entire section dedicated to animated GIFs. Posters usually rehash content that’s already been created, but original GIFs do appear often. The site also doubles as a discussion forum, so the site has a strong community element – though anonymous posting makes it impossible to know who you’re talking to.
While 4Chan is an awesome resource for GIFs, it’s also an unrestricted one. Child pornography is the only topic that’s off limits. Everything else is free game and unfiltered. This is not a site that you want to visit at work or in the presence of children. Those with weak stomachs may not want to visit it at all. You’ve been warned!
GIF sites are an artifact of the old Internet. Technically, they are inferior to streaming video in every way, as they are both demanding on system resources (for a given resolution) and can’t support audio. Yet they persist and even thrive. What is it about a looped image that makes it so enthralling?
If you have a favorite GIF website, or you simply want to share your favorite animated GIF, let us known about it in the comments.