The Unstoppable Social Power of the GIF

The Unstoppable Social Power of the GIF

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Jason Koebler over at VICE channel Motherboard has crunched the numbers and found GIFs are punching well above their social weight.

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Many digital words have been spilled about the GIF, the photo file type that was once reserved for terrible GeoCities banners but has since become so much more than that.

Well, here’s a few more words to consider the importance of a lowly file type: The GIF has perhaps become the most common way internet denizens consume content.

And GIFs, on average, ​are the most engaging visual content on the internet (if not the most ubiquitous). And it’s not even close.

For proof, check out these series of graphs whipped up by Max Woolf, ​a data analyst in San Francisco. Earlier this week, Woolf analyzed every GIF, JPG, and PNG file that was linked to on reddit (​using a data set made available to researchers). He found that, on average, GIFs received more than twice the number of upvotes than those static image files did.

That means GIFs, which are largely animated, are outperforming all static images, including memes and other photo content that we consider to be stereotypically viral, and Woolf thinks that trend probably would play across the rest of the content-driven internet. (Static images are obviously more popular on Amazon, for example.)

“Since the core demographic of reddit users are internet-savvy, I think it would be fair to say that the results could be extrapolated to rest of the internet (even more so since reddit is one of the primary sources for viral images around the internet),” Woolf told me in an email.

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