An appreciation of the animated GIF  OCT 20 2010

Unlike 8-tracks and laserdiscs, animated GIFs won't die.

One such function becomes clear after just a few minutes spent poking around Senor GIF. Many of the GIFs on display at the site are built around the payoff moments of Did you see that?-style viral videos. These GIFs are structured like jokes, with the barest minimum of set-up: A man on a bicycle coasts miraculously through a violent three-car accident; two dolphins arc graciously from the ocean's surface -- until a clumsy third dolphin arcs directly into the second; a man pushes a stalled van off of train tracks right before a train blasts past. There is an appealing economy to these GIFs. They get to the point instantaneously, and at the exact moment when one feels the impulse to rewind and watch the climax again, the loop restarts right where it should. In the two minutes it might take me to load a viral video and watch it in full, I can watch the money shots of 15 different viral videos. Yes, we're talking about decadent levels of impatience, inanity, and time-wasting here, but GIFs allow us to waste less time online -- or, rather, to waste it more efficiently.

Animated GIFs = long photographs.

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