Ah, the animated GIF (alliterative with ‘jerk’ rather than ‘get’ we’re reliably told). An early entry in the race for efficient, low-bandwidth web graphics, it served as a foil to the dominant JPG file which had (and still has) no support for animation or transparency. The GIF arrived on our cathode-ray screens in 1987 by way of that prehistoric Internet behemoth, CompuServe. This was more than a decade before the open-standard PNG file came along and seduced us with 24-bit colour and true alpha transparency and the only way to introduce animation without resorting to video or Flash.

But once bandwidth progressed beyond dial-up speeds, we lost our love for the GIF and began to deplore it’s puny ‘indexed’ colour palette of just 256, its lame 8-bit transparency, and its overweight, frame-by-frame animation – not to mention an ugly patent dispute. So quickly our hearts turned to the sexy PNG, and besides, we didn’t need that crappy, amateurish animation when Flash did such an amazing job…

Then came Apple’s fatal blow to Flash and with one quick decision (not to support it on IOS devices) wiped millions off Adobe’s market value and sent thousands of ActionScript developers out onto the mean silicon streets. The creative void from this was not easily filled by pages of JavaScript and HTML 5 code and even today, we have no viable, designer-friendly alternative to what Flash had to offer. Not that it’s quite over yet. Flash support on the major browsers is officially ending in late 2020 but it’s been dying a slow death since Steve Jobs put the knife in in 2010.

In the mean time, the GIF returned in animated, memic form to haunt the comment fields of blogs, Reddit threads and social platforms. But trashy memes are not the only thing GIFs are used for. Artists and animators know they can rely on GIFs to be displayed on every browser since Netscape Navigator and every hand-held device since the Blackberry. Even Facebook, albeit a bit late to the party, supports GIFs in posts.

Anyway, here is a selection of our favourite animated GIFs which make use of colour in some creative way… Many of these (well, most) are absent of due credit thanks to their widespread dissemination across the labyrinth of social media… Particularly on Pinterest which manages to sidestep copyright in that uniquely silicon valley way… Still, we remain a willing participant so subscribe to our Pinterest feed while you’re there ᵔᴥᵔ

Mat Lucas via Colossal