They may have only become part of the everyday internet experience in recent years, but gifs are old school. Here we map its rise in its 30 th year

The humble gif is turning 30. The multi-purpose bitmap image format has established itself as part of internet culture, so much so that people have almost stopped arguing over how it is pronounced( overwhelmingly it is with a hard g, although the discoverer of the format says he meant for it to be a soft g ).

The gif, or graphics interchange format, was created by programmer Steve Wilhite, who longed for an image format that could be used across different computer platforms. At the time, in 1987, this included the likes of Atari, Apple and IBM. Plus modem speeds were slow and images took a long … time … to … load.

In the beginning, gifs on the internet were mostly used as intend accents for websites, before their current widespread employ as the internet currency for faces and seems- so-called ” reaction gifs “. Indeed, gifs are part of the online tendency for carrying ourselves without proper words, alongside emoticons, emojis and abbreviations. The cry-laugh emoji was named Oxford Dictionary’ US’ term’ of the year in 2015, but “gif” took this accolade in 2012.

Meanwhile, Facebook added gifs to Messenger in 2015, and to celebrate the big 3-o will add them to statements. Even Twitter, which is well known for introducing features perfectly nobody craves, surprised us all by adding the in-platform gif function in 2016. Gif keyboards are also now common, with Apple adding one to Messages in iOS 10 and Google’s Gboard launched with gif supporting in 2016. The expansion in web-based, app and downloadable gif editors entails many more people are making their own gifs too, with pre-existing ones catalogued in online storehouses such as Giphy.

So, where does the gif move from here? Well, there have been some pretty darn creative innovations in the format to the point it is becoming a legitimate art medium in its own right, with IRL exhibitions and everything. In honour of the gif’s exit from its heady 20 s, here are some iconic examples( and some personal favourites ):

Deal with it

Photograph: FoD

Deal-with-it gifs have been around a long time, and are now so popular that list pieces have collated the best ones. They typically consist of a pair of pixelated sunglasses falling onto a nonchalant character praying the spectator to, well, “deal with it”. The first apply was a version with an animated bird-dog back in 2010 on the website But I am particularly fond of the Ferris Bueller inspired version above.

Dancing baby

Photograph: Internet

Dancing baby was born style back in 1996 by two animators at a video games company. A fellow worker at LucasArts emailed a video of the animation all over the agency and, boom, the baby became a phenomenon via email chains. It even seemed in the late-9 0s legal drama Ally McBeal as one of the neurotic McBeal’s recurring hallucinations.

Michael Jackson eating popcorn

Photograph: Internet

The popcorn-eating trope is a well known reaction to find a good age-old online contention or Twitter beef. Fortunately, there are many popcorn-eating gifs. Regrettably, virtually everyone on Twitter prefers the first available on its gif menu, which is the Jackson version( taken from his video for Thriller ). Second most popular is Jon Stewart feeing popcorn.

Dumpster fire

” Dumpster burn”, shorthand for complete tragedy, is truly a term for our times. In particular, a gif of a dumpster fire in Los Angeles was wildly shared in the run-up to Donald Trump winning the 2016 election. Another popular fire-themed reaction gif is a scene from Community in which Donald Glover arrives, pizza in hand, at a burning apartment.

David Bowie’s ch-ch-changes

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