Imgur says the GIF is due for a makeover. The looping image file is a “key piece of Internet culture,” Imgur said in a blog post Thursday, and the company is intent on making it better, faster and sharper.
GIFs posted on the popular image-hosting service will now animate fully on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Imgur said, a longtime problem for users wanting to share the latest memes with family and friends. The change is made possible through the way Imgur encodes uploaded GIFs, it noted.
A new process will turn GIFs into smaller files, allowing them to load faster on the site – especially on smartphones. Imgur can now host higher-resolution GIFs with the same bandwidth costs as before, so it is increasing the maximum upload of an animated image from five megabytes to 50.
The GIF as a file format was invented in 1987, and it just isn’t optimal for file size and image quality, Imgur said. It calls the initiative Project GIFV, and its site-wide upgrade will “automatically convert uploaded GIF files on the fly into the MP4 video format.” Converted MP4s are much smaller than GIFs, it said, with one 50-megabyte GIF turned into a 3.4-megabyte file through the process.
Imgur says the change will allow the new image files to load “lightning-fast” at higher quality. “By lowering bandwidth consumption, the change also optimizes Imgur for users on mobile,” Imgur said. “Rejoice!”
Imgur reports that 1.5 million images are uploaded daily by its users. The service began in 2009 as a “gift” to the Reddit community and has grown to be larger than competing services like Photobucket and Imageshack.