What is a GIF?

The GIF visual format is short for Graphics Interchange Format and is normally used for moving images such as short videos. GIFs are commonly used as a form of online communication and can also function as an eye-catching element when designing websites.

GIF is a file or image format that supports both static and moving images (e.g. short videos and animations). It was created in 1987 by Steve Wilhite, an American inventor and computer programmer. Unlike other formats, its color palette is limited to just 256 colors. It can, however, be compressed without the quality of the animation or video being significantly affected.

There are different types of GIFs: Animated GIFs are made up of multiple frames, which are put together in an animation. These animations can be run once or repeated endlessly. If the sequence of images is played at a speed that mirrors reality (i.e. without being sped up or slowed down), it is referred to as a real-time GIF.


Do you want to create your own animations and share them with others? Then take a look at our article on “creating GIFs” in our Digital Guide.

When and why are GIFs used?

Considered visually more appealing than static images, GIFs were originally used as website banners. Nowadays, GIFs are primarily used on social media plattforms and messaging services such as WhatsApp and WhatsApp alternatives.

Users often use GIFs to highlight what they mean in a visual way. They’re mainly used to share an opinion or joke in a way that is often considered more amusing than using just words. Memes are also another form of visual communication that are extremely popular online.

Are there any security risks associated with GIFs?

Online criminals can hide executable EXE files in GIFs and other similar formats such as APNG. While this may pose a security risk, it’s important to know that such files are not executed when a GIF is played. They are simply skipped over as the pixel coordinates are being read. However, dangerous software was once spread via advertising GIFs, after attackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in Internet Explorer, one of the best web browsers to date. This problem has since been resolved though.

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