Here’s a little-known Internet secret: GIF files -- the preferred medium for sharing pithy animation loops across the web -- were never invented with this purpose in mind. Instead, the file format was introduced by Compuserve in 1987 as a compressed means of transferring color images across sluggish modems.
But today, Imgur, one of the medium’s leading purveyors -- which hosts 1.5 million images and GIF uploads every day -- has announced a new initiative to bring the frequently laggy and lo-res file format into the modern era. Entitled Project GIFV, Imgur will now automatically convert all of its GIFs into MP4 files.
Given that MP4s are roughly 10 times smaller than GIFs, animation will now render at lightning speeds and at a higher quality -- all while eating up less bandwith, Imgur said. Compare this GIF file, for instance, with the reimagined MP4 format.
The levity of the new files, which will now appear with a “.gifv” extension, enables uploads to “fully animate” on social media channels, the company added, and optimizes them for consumption over mobile connections.
“Simply put: GIFs are no longer about .GIFs,” said Imgur’s founder and CEO, Alan Schaaf, in a statement. “The culture is way bigger than any specific file format.”
And because the company believes that the optimized file format will open new possibilities for creativity in the medium, Imgur is bumping up its upload limit for GIF files tenfold -- from 5MB (or 10MB for pro users, who pay $23.95 per year) to a whopping 50 MB. That’s because when the company converts these larger uploads to MP4s (direct MP4 uploads aren’t yet available), the resulting files are substantially smaller.