NBI 2016 – Kill Hippy GIFs With Fire

The topic of animated GIFs came up in the NBI Discord this morning so I thought I’d write a little bit about it.

I hate animated GIFs.

That is all.

No, really, I hate them. I lived through the 1990s World Wide Web, so I have vivid memories of the days when every advertiser put obnoxious blinking animated GIFs in every web ad, making every web page into some crazy dystopian night-time Las Vegas scene with blinking neon signs in every direction. (There was an early Futurama episode that captured this very well–I think it was A Bycyclops Built For Two.) It was horrible. It was so bad it birthed the entire ad-blocker industry.

Then there was Geocities, where every web page had an animated opening-and-closing mailbox for an email link and an animated construction-worker-with-a-shovel icon to indicate the page was still under construction.

Not to even mention that from a technological standpoint, it’s really a horrible format. I’ve written code to read GIF files (back in the 1990s). It’s the silliest way to encode an animation in the entire world. It was tolerable when all the animations were hand-drawn 16-color pixely creations made with Microsoft Paint, but now everyone makes full motion video animated GIFs, and I stagger to think of all the wasted bytes going into those files.

So I still have a possibly PTSD-related visceral reaction to animated GIFs. Something like: Nuke them from orbit. Kill them with fire. Drown them in … I dunno, water I guess. That kind of thing.

I don’t remember when or why animated GIFs came back into web culture, but I was never consulted about it and if I had been, I would not have approved it. Maybe this is the real issue that separates the Old Internet Generation from the Young Internet Generation. Get off my lawn, you damn hippy GIFs.

That being said, the entire issue for me could be solved with one simple checkbox in my web browser of choice: Do Not Play Animated GIFs Until I Tell You To. Yet for some reason, presumably a secret pact between the Big Animated GIF Lobby and The Web Browser Consortium, that most basic of user interface settings remains missing.

Oh, wait, I just Googled how to disable animated GIFs in Chrome and apparently there’s an extension for it. Sweet! Nevermind. :)

I shouldn’t get too excited, though. It doesn’t fix the Twitter app on my Android phone, which feels no shame in showing every animated GIF in the world without my consent, forcing me to disable images entirely. (Twitter looks very different when you turn off pictures btw–it’s mostly a gibberish of hashtags and links.) Nor does it fix any other app on my phone, which is apparently a territory that remains under the exclusive control of the Young Internet Generation.

P.S. I’ve really amused myself with the notion that future generations will be divided not by liberal or conservative political issues, but by how they perceive animated GIFs.

P.P.S. Okay, some animated GIFs are pretty cool. But it’s like 1 in 1000.

4 thoughts on “NBI 2016 – Kill Hippy GIFs With Fire”

  1. I have only one thing to say to you… Hamster dance.

    I think they are okay if used sparingly. But if your shtick is to embed multiple animated GIFs into every post… and you know who you are… I might suggest rethinking some of your life choices.

    1. Could not agree more. When Hampster dance began gracing our Netscape adventures (Netscape – We make the web work®) our receptionist would scream everytime she heard it. Drove her nuts.

      Now imagine a dozen freshly minted web designers grinning with evil intent. Ahh, those were the good old days.

      Flaming spinning logos? Of course we can. Do we recommend it? It’s revolting.

      ‘My kid thinks it’s cool.’ sigh

  2. I remember those days, of horrible web decisions. Like when you had letters and stuff following your mouse, snow or some sparkle stuff falling in front of the text you’re trying to read, those damn blinking red words that just wants attention. Going through digital design classes, my teachers would almost yell out not to use this stuff just so the message got through. It was a very obnoxious time.

    Love the post. But just to satisfy a trollish urge, want to add the Homer Simpson page link. Click it at your own peril. >:)

  3. I really, really liked GeoCities – a lot. I miss it even now. I don’t think any of the subsequent waves of social media have bettered GeoCities. I spent countless hours surfing through homepages. It was a never-ending source of wonder.

    I also like animated GIFs. One of my favorite blogs ever to emerge from the NBI, “That Was An Accident” used multiple animated GIFs in every post and they made me very happy. I wish Prinnie was still posting…

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