Social Media Marketing Glossary

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Keep up with the latest social media terms, concepts and trends thanks to our comprehensive glossary. 

Glossary Terms

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)

What is a GIF? How should I use a GIF? Where can I find GIFs?

The term “GIF” stands for “Graphics Interchange Format.” GIF is an image file format mostly used for images on the web which sparks in software programs.

Unlike JPEG format images, GIFs are better suited for banners and web headlines, since these types of imagines do not call for a lot of colors.

Since GIFs can only contain 256 colors, they are not the best for storing digital photos, such as the ones captured with a digital camera. Even when using a custom color palette to smooth out the image, photos saved in the GIF format often look grainy and unrealistic.

The original GIF format, also known as “GIF 87a,” was published in the year 1987 by CompuServe. In 1989, CompuServe released an updated version of the format called “GIF 89a.”

This new format is similar to the 87a blueprint but it also includes support for transparent backgrounds and image metadata. Each of these formats endorses animations through the ability to store a stream of images in a single folder.

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Even though the GIF format was published more than a quarter-century ago, it is still to this day widely used on the web and almost all GIFs use the 89a format. You can always check the version of a specific GIF image by opening it in a text editor and looking at the first six characters listed in the document (GIF87a or GIF89a).

GIFs are convenient for sharp-edged line art with a limited number of colors, such as logos. This takes advantage of the format’s lossless compression, which praises uniform colors and flat areas with a well-defined edge.

GIFs may be used to store low-color sprite data for games and they can also be used for creating small animations as well as different video clips with a low-resolution.

According to Steve Wilhite, the creator of the original GIF format, the term is pronounced “jiff” just like the Jif peanut butter brand.

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