Opinions on animated GIFs range from pure hatred to unabashed overuse. “Hide your eyes,” wrote one reporter on CNET. Meanwhile, Tumblr, which is the undisputed platform for animated GIF enthusiasts, announced it has reached over 100 million blogs. Now that Google has released a new search tool for these dynamic images, some wonder if we’ve reached peak GIF.
We may be experiencing the second incarnation of animated GIFs, a 25-year-old medium, but it feels totally different this time. More than just dancing babies and glittery hearts, animated GIFs now have the potential to evoke a whole new narrative depth. They can be distractingly anarchic or subtly creepy. They can also strike a balance between these two, offering a small, yet thoughtful charge of emotion. Alastair Macaulay’s homage to the State of Liberty in The New York Times was illustrated with three animated GIFs, each with calming, subtle looping movement—the rolling waves of the New York Harbor, a bird soaring past Lady Liberty, and the swaying branches of the trees on Ellis Island. Why aren’t all newspaper articles illustrated so dynamically?