Why GIFs Became the Sweetheart of the Internet

 

Is it too early to crown the GIF the internet star of 2013? Though the format has been in use since the early days of websites, there has been a proliferation of GIF use among young consumers of late that has pushed the once lowly image file into the spotlight. What is it about the GIF format that has captured the hearts of hoards of Tumblr users, internet commenters, and viral bloggers?

For readers who aren’t familiar with the GIF, they are short, endlessly-looped video files that appear to play a few seconds of action on eternal replay. The New Republic wrote an extensive history of the medium and its rise from 90s junk animation to art form. Today, GIFs have become an integral part of the way internet users (often led by Gen Y) talk to one another. They appear as reactions to blog articles, are created and shared by fan communities on Tumblr and elsewhere to celebrate moments in TV and movies, are emailed as exclamations and emotional outbursts. In short, they have become the second language of the internet.

So why GIFs, and why now? Millennials, always a very image-reliant generation, have continued to gravitate towards visual communication. With the strengthening popularity of Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and Snapchat, we could almost see them reaching a tipping point where visuals actually usurp text communication in common use. When you are a group who communicates by majority in visuals, those visuals have to evolve in order to fully capture the emotion you are trying to convey. (We saw a similar evolution in the simple emoticon, which began as a finite combination of punctuations and have become a legion of animated faces and objects stored on your phone for easy access and hieroglyphic-esque messaging.) Layer on top of this the fact that Millennials have also…

 
 

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The Newsfeed

“I think we have a tendency to think that the world revolves around us and what we want and having a hard time to live up to the standards of having/living a perfect life.”—Female, 22, WA

A new quiz app’s R-rated categories are capturing teens’ attention. FriendO is rising through the ranks of the app store, but not by following the Play Nice, PG strategy that took tbh viral. FriendO users move up their friends’ rankings boards as they answer questions about each other, proving their friendship. If someone sends the app to three friends, they unlock NSFW categories like MSFK (Marry, Sex, Friend, Kill). But people are worried that none of these categories are barred to young users. (Mashable)

TGI Fridays is adding Instagrammable milkshakes to their menu with “cascading toppings,” “suspiciously” similar to Black Tap’s infamous creations. The “Extreme” milkshakes “take dessert to the next level” with a seasonal option piled high with Christmas cookies, and a s’mores shake topped with marshmallows, Oreos, and graham cracker crumbs. If that’s not enough to get Millennials in the door of chain restaurants that they notoriously avoid, both shakes can be ordered “boozy” (a tactic we’ve seen before). (Grub Street)

Seventeen is creating an LGBTQ community for teens with their new, “social-first” platform, Here. Instagram and Facebook form the main hub of Here, along with a dedicated vertical on Seventeen itself. Launched less than a week ago, content is already popping up on social and the site. Seventeen is appealing to the Genreless Generation, and one editor said Here will be “a resource and a place for teens to express themselves.” (Fashionista)

Rising musician Tallia Storm says her Instagram paid for her debut album. Lauded by Sir Elton John and Nile Rodgers, 19-year-old Storm leveraged The Influencer Effect for her own gain: Her debut album, Teenage Tears, was entirely self-financed via her earnings as a “fashion ‘it girl’” and Instagram influencer with over 300,000 followers. As a result, she had full creative freedom and became a “part of the growing staple of acts who are not repped by a major label.” Oh, and she got to open for Sir Elton John. (PR Newswire)

Kylie Cosmetics, Kylie Jenner’s online-only beauty brand sensation, has teamed up with Topshop to drive young shoppers in-store. Brick-and-mortar is far from dead, with research from TABS Analytics showing 66% of shoppers prefer to purchase new cosmetics in-store—and brands like this one are betting on IRL retail. Kylie Cosmetics is now available at seven Topshop stores across the country for just five weeks, and they’re accruing long lines of fans to test out the coveted lip kits in person. (BuzzFeed)

“…[Rick and Morty] has our generation's sense of nihilism, fear of wasted time, humor in unpredictability, and shy optimism in human relations.”—Female, 17, TX

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