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GIF format gets a much needed makeover, load speed injection

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A 50-MB MP4 is compacted into a 3.4-MB GIFV as Imgur unveils Project GIFV and heralds the evolution of the GIF.

Project GIFV is an internal undertaking at Imgur, and one the image-hosting site hopes will spur Internet-wide adoption of a sharper and clearer format for delivering bite-sized chunks of video to forums and social networking sites.

"The [current] GIF format is outdated and isn't compatible with today's web. But the experience you get is amazing," says Alan Schaaf, Imgur founder and CEO. "One of the things I love about it is that it's sort of like showing you the best part of a joke over and over."

The new GIFVs load faster than GIFs, a big plus for mobile platforms, and they offer much more efficient compression. Imgur says it has raised its GIF upload limit to 50 MB from 5 MB, which promotes the conversion of higher-quality video into the new container format.

"The cornerstone of Project GIFV is a platformwide upgrade to automatically convert uploaded GIF files on the fly into the MP4 video format," states  Imgur. "The converted MP4s are significantly smaller than their equivalent GIFs, which allows them to load at lightning-fast speeds with better quality. By lowering bandwidth consumption, the change also optimizes Imgur for users on mobile. Rejoice!"

To Imgur, the revolution of the GIF format was about taking a concept forward and leaving the old tech behind. The GIFVs load faster than GIFs and they're prettier, though they're technically MP4 files and aren't an iteration on CompuServe's code from the '80s. A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, is a compressed image file that can display either a static icon or an animated image loop.

"GIFs are no longer about .GIFs -- the culture of the GIF now trumps the file format," states an Imgur representative. "With Project GIFV, Imgur is reimagining the looping GIF video with all the richness it deserves as a key piece of Internet culture."

Imgur files say the HTML5-optimized MP4 files will be wrapped in the GIFV container in an effort to carry the idea of GIFs forward, while leaving the old format behind.

The GIFV files have a firm foundation beneath them, as Twitter and Facebook already support them. However, it may take a little a little prompting from regulars to have niche forums roll out support for GIFV files that auto play.

"We hope these changes deliver an improved GIF experience on Imgur with more fun and less frustration, optimizing it for all of the changes that have happened on the Internet since the format was first introduced in 1987," states Imgur.

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