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The humble GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, has been with us since 1987, meaning that it’s just over 25-years-old. While this is a format that can be used for still images, its most obvious use is in short animations. And by short we’re talking a few seconds at the most. Thus GIFs have become the staple of many websites which offer simple, easy-to-consume content.
GIFs are commonplace across the Web, but it’s sometimes hard to find the right one for the right situation. Thankfully a new dedicated animated image search engine just for GIFs has arrived. Its name is Giphy and it’s being touted as the place to “Search the best GIFs in the world.” But does it live up to the hype? Let’s “Search in a Giphy” to find out.
The Power Of GIFs
GIFs are now part of the lifeblood of the Web, being a stock source of memes across social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and especially the likes of Reddit (one of the seven wonders of the Web) and Tumblr. This is due to their ability to deliver instant gratification, providing entertainment value in a short space of time.
While videos are arguably more popular, particularly thanks to YouTube, GIFs deliver a succinct message in an instant without the need to even press ‘Play’. GIFs are, in essence, perfect for those of us with short attention spans. Which accounts for 90 percent (a complete guess not based on any form of scientific analyses) of the Internet population.
And so we come to Giphy.
Giphy is an animated image search engine just for finding GIFs online. This is its single purpose in life, the whole reason it was created. It features a simple, stripped-down interface which places GIFs front and center. It was put together by Alex Chung and Jace Cooke, who, according to Daily Dot, “couldn’t get over how cumbersome it still was to find and share GIFs.”
The homepage presents you with a generous search bar above single GIFs representing tags which are currently proving popular. Below that is a selection of the most popular tags overall, presented without accompanying GIFs. Click on a suggested tag or search for one of your own and you’re presented with the first 25 GIFs featuring that tag.
None of the GIFs move until you move your cursor over them, at which point they spring to life. If you see one you want to explore further you can click on it to be shown it in its original size. You’re also then given the option to share the GIF with others, view details about its source, and see other tags associated with it.
A Start, Not An End
It should be noted at this point that Giphy is far from perfect. There have been numerous complaints from users that they’re getting no results, a lack of results, or GIFs not really suited to the search terms. This is primarily because Giphy is sourcing GIFs from Tumblr, and organizing them by the tags assigned to each one. Unfortunately not everybody plays by the rules and tag images correctly, hence the spotty results.
However, this is a young site, and so it’s likely to improve over time. Giphy may currently be lumbered with a crude system for finding and sorting results, but a little extra work on the part of the people behind the site could see it turned from a nice short-term diversion to a must-bookmark repository for all things related to GIFs.
What About Google Images?
You’ve probably reached this point of the article with the question, What about Google Images? running through your head. And it’s a fair point. Google already offers the ability to search the Web for GIFs, and only for GIFs. It’s as simple as clicking on ‘Advanced Settings’ and then narrowing your results by file type to ‘GIF’.
In some cases this method is superior to Giphy, with Google often throwing up older and better GIFs. But even Google isn’t perfect. For starters not all of the GIFs found through Google Images are animated ones, which is what most people are really after. You also have to actively click on the image to watch it, whereas Giphy sets it playing when the cursor is merely moved across the image.
Giphy can only be considered a work in progress right now, but I for one am glad it exists. There are several other GIF search engines out there, but they’re nowhere near as refined as Giphy already is. If Giphy is given the love and attention it deserves, with its search methodology refined and database grown, then it could become an essential part of the Web.
What do you think of Giphy? Or of the popularity of animated GIFs as a whole? As always you’re invited to let us know your thoughts and views in the comments section below.
Image Credit: Gareth Saunders