Google Launches Animated GIF Search

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Google is making it easier to search the web for animated GIFs, the latest proof that the rudimentary image format is making a comeback. The search engine giant has added new filters to its Image Search page, including clip art, line drawings, photos and faces. But the option to search for animated GIFs caused the most buzz among advertisers and Internet users alike.

Once thought to be a relic of the early Web 1.0 era, the crude animated images have returned to the spotlight thanks to sites like Reddit and Tumblr, where GIF memes like Grumpy Cat and Infomercial Failsfirst went viral. GIFs have been around since 1987 and have become the de facto standard for short animations on the web, from pony glitter text to grumpy cat memes the company wrote on its Google+ page.

But the hipster appeal of GIFs has also begun to entice marketers hoping to reach the twenty-something market. Coca-Cola, Amazon, Victoria’s Secret Calvin Klein, Adidas and MTV have all reportedly used GIFs in digital advertising. “Animated GIFs tend to catch your eye and attract attention,” said Mike Volpe, chief marketing officer of Hubspot, a marketing software company.

“They allow you to have animation that auto-plays, so on things like Google+ and Facebook, as you’re scrolling through your feed, that content stands out a lot more.” For the inexperienced, GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, a compressed image format that allows creators to loop static images to make short, repetitive animations.

Users can access the new filters on Google Image Search by clicking “Search Options” under the search bar, and then clicking the “Any Type” drop-down menu. Select “Animated” to search for animated GIFs. GIFs have been experiencing a renaissance in Internet culture since mid-2010, said Brad Kim, editor of, a website that chronicles internet memes.

“Advertisers are definitely catching onto this, as with most trends,” he said. “I think people are noticing an affiliation between online fandom communities and using GIFs as a way of internet scrapbooking.” In January, Cinemax marketed its new television show Banshee by posting the entire pilot in GIF form on Tumblr.

Although the trend is often seen as retrogressive, Kim said GIFs have become more sophisticated in some ways. Now, many GIFs are made from video stills, rather than static images. Artists and photographers have also embraced the trend, using software like Cinemagraph to produce visually appealing GIF images.

Ryan Enn Hughes, a Toronto photographer and multimedia artist, has used GIFs in both artistic and commercial work. He said the technology has not reached its pinnacle yet. “Right now it’s constrained by file size, due to the limitation of Internet speeds, but that will expand in coming years,” he said. “The idea of a looped motion sequence – like a moving painting, or a moving billboard – is where I see the GIF going, or at least where I would like to take it.” (The Star)