the best 2 things you can do with a gif

EDIT: I listened to this podcast from Reply All about some really weird gifs from the 90s and I felt like it had to be in this post. So listen away! Also in retrospect I’m not sure that “complaining about Internet stuff I don’t really care about” is a good look for me and I’m gonna try to dial back on that?

The other day I was reading something in Mashable about the history of gifs. Gifs are not my favorite thing…like I’m constantly seeing gifs where a picture would do. (And as my girlfriend just pointed out an hour ago, sometimes you see a video where a gif would do…)* (Also I have super weak wifi in my apartment which means I hate waiting for gifs to load on the Tumblr app. So maybe I have a personal bias.) But it turns out gifs were a big deal back in the early internet days because they loaded pretty quickly relative to the amount of content they could communicate:

Regardless of the specific animation, web designers and engineers trusted the GIF’s compressed file size to load on early 56k modems and outdated web browsers. On early webpages, the average two-minute YouTube embed would have required about 40 minutes of buffering. So instead, people rocked the eyeballs and dinosaurs.

Still, in the present day you gotta be careful. Sometimes a gif is just not necessary. I spent a long time thinking about it and I could only come up with 2 solidly-worthwhile uses of gifs that I have enjoyed in my internet career. Here they are:


Case in point. Honestly show me makeup gifs every day until I die. It’s a flawless marketing strategy really.


Never have I wanted eyeliner so bad.



Okay but. Makeup is not a static thing–it’s super helpful to see it in motion, to get a sense of how easy it is to apply, how shiny it is, the packaging, etc. Incorporating more gifs would be very useful for online makeup shopping when you can’t just swatch the lipstick on your hand, right?

  1. MATH

The other thing gifs are great for is math. Math gifs serve a dual purpose. First, they explain things about math that never made sense before.


why all the angles in a polygon always add up to 360!

Second, they’re pretty. In case that reason sounds inadequate, the genius of pretty math gifs is that you want to stare at them uninterrupted forever, which makes them perfect for the gif format.


Isometric Cube Loop by Pedro O. that sounds like math, right? listen, I don’t know, I only do NLP math at this point


Functional and nice to look at!

*Okay but I actually love Vine. Maybe I will make another post about why I love Vine so much. My #1 gripe about video as a medium is that people rarely use it to its full potential–like if you’re going to take up both my sight and my hearing you’d better have a good reason, you know? But on Vine the limitations of the medium really push people to do the stuff that video does best. Like the vine of the screaming duck toys. That vine cannot be gif’ed!

Feature image linked to above.


One response to “the best 2 things you can do with a gif

  1. I would add that I have seen some pretty useful gifs that are instructional like this one about kitchen knife skills

    I also really like this tumblr turns old photographs into gifs (maybe I would just like to know how to do this).

    Here’s an interesting article on some other useful & not so useful gif stuff.


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