Today the GIF Turns 30. Let Us All Hail History’s Greatest GIFs.

The 10 greatest moments in graphic interface format history

By The Editors
June 15, 2017 9:00 am

The Internet is good for one thing.

Political discourse. (Ha!)

Actually, it’s animated loops stolen from pop culture and random stranger’s real lives, applied somewhat judiciously through social media, comment sections and email threads for comedic effect.

Happy 30th, GIF.

The graphic interchange format’s come a long way from the simple airplane pic that premiered on Compuserve in 1987. Today, according to user-generated GIF platform Gfycat, 63% of Americans use GIFs. And its usage is only going to keep rising: just in time for the format’s pearl anniversary, Facebook finally turned on GIF capabilities for all comments.

(Historical side note: according to creator Steve Wilhite, GIF is pronounced with a soft “g” … further proof that once you put something out in the world, it’s no longer yours. The people like the hard “g,” and the people have spoken.)

But the real history of the GIF can only be told visually, with its greatest hits — which we present below, with commentary from our editors footnoting each one’s majesty.

You don’t need to know who (John Cena) or what (pro wrestling) is going on here, but we’ve all felt the existential dread this GIF embodies.

Surely no reaction GIF can best this moment from Antonio Banderas. It’s the perfect exercise in meta-internet: What better way to react to something seen on the web than with this portrait of a man reacting to something he has seen on the web?

Tom Brady, five-time Super Bowl champion, Mr. Gisele Bündchen and proud eater of avocado ice cream, gets creepy checking out a girl on the sidelines and gets called on it. Maybe he’s just like the rest of us after all.

Use case: You have insider information about something super fun and probably ill-advised but you’re going full-steam ahead regardless. (Also safe if someone asks if you want to hear the latest office gossip but you don’t want to go full Lucille Bluth.)

Because if the internet isn’t for fans of having-the-last-word telling people what they really think, it’s all just porn.

Because we’re all just simpletons. And we love Deadwood.

This is the GIF elevated to an art form. It manages to take an already insane (and highly parodied) pop-culture phenomenon — the Oprah gift reveal — and make it even more psychotic and unhinged. Bonus points for elevating Oprah to the level of Old Testament Yahweh.

Sydney Pollack’s slow push in on Robert Redford’s Jeremiah Johnson as he delivers arguably the most epic nod of approval in cinematic history was a shot guaranteed for GIF Hall of Fame — no GIF before or since has been able to deliver the unique alchemy of stoicism and knowing benevolence that says “I am a seasoned veteran of this GIF game and I respect what you just did.”

This GIF alerts the recipient that you are indeed “cool as f*ck” and ready to party.

Consider this a perfect way to bow out of all interweb communication. 

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