Facebook has finally begun officially supporting gifs – you know, those quick-looped animations that people on the internet use to communicate. For years, Facebook did not let users share gifs on their News Feed in an embedded form, only as hyperlinks, sending users to another window.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook has had built-in support for gifs since at least 2013, but it just didn’t go live until this morning. Reports suggest that the company feared that allowing gifs to pop up would make the platform “too chaotic” and clutter people’s News Feeds with “low-quality memes”.
This has been Facebook’s existential struggle from the get-go. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of what the platform could be is sometimes at odds with how Facebook users actually use the product. Today, Facebook finally gave in to the gif.
“We’re rolling out support for animated gifs in News Feed. This is so you can share more fun, expressive things with your friends on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Facebook users will slowly start being able to copy a gif link from Giphy, Tumblr or Google Images, and when the update is published, the gif will automatically be animated inline. Gifs are currently visible on the web and on the Facebook iOS app.
A part of Facebook’s success has had to do with its strict aesthetic uniformity. The lack of customisation is what distinguished it from MySpace, which gave users pretty much carte blanche to design their profile pages with HTML, auto-playing music and video and, of course, lots of gifs. And, let’s be honest, most MySpace users weren’t A-grade graphic designers. So it makes sense that Facebook would want to tread carefully – today’s funny visual meme could become tomorrow’s total eyesore.
But there is some evidence that gifs are here to stay. Twitter began supporting gifs on the web and on mobile last year, and gifs have been a part of Tumblr’s identity since its inception.