Imgur announces MP4-based GIFV Project

October 10, 2014 | 12:20

Tags: #gif #html5 #mp4 #video-streaming

Companies: #imgur

Popular image-sharing site Imgur has announced a move to a new file format, GIFV, to replace the ageing Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) traditionally used to share animations online.

Regardless of where you stand on its pronunciation, you'll likely be aware of GIF's ubiquity as a format for animations. Although the format has limitations, chiefly its 256-colour palette, it is the most commonly used format for sharing short animations and video clips that do not require audio. Sadly, it's relatively inefficient: when used for video formats that run to more than a few frames per second, the file size balloons rapidly.

Imgur's answer is GIFV. Rather than attempt to shore up the old GIF format, the site has announced that it will automatically and invisibly convert any uploaded GIFs into MP4 video files which can be streamed directly into modern browsers using HTML5. 'The converted MP4s are significantly smaller than their equivalent GIFs, which allows them to load at lightning-fast speeds with better quality,' the site explained in a blog post announcing the change. 'By lowering bandwidth consumption, the change also optimises Imgur for users on mobile. Rejoice!'

A demonstration of the system's capabilities is presented in the blog, showing off a modified clip from Disney's Tron: Legacy in which the file size drops from the original 50MB GIF to just 3.4MB as a GIFV MP4. The site also confirmed that it will now allow uploads of GIF images up to 50MB, ten times larger than its previous upper limit, although will delete the original GIFs from its systems post-conversion if they are sized higher than 20MB. The site has also indicated that it plans to submit GIFV as an official standard, sending proposals to the relevant standards organisations by the end of the year.

Imgur isn't the first site to look to improve the GIF experience: rival image-sharing service Gfycat offers a similar system in which uploaded GIFs are converted to HTML5-streamed videos and viewers given the option to view either the original file or the far smaller converted video. Using this system, the site claims to have saved more than 3.87PB in bandwidth since launch.
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