In the most recent broadcast, my brother from another mother - Jason Ormand, a performance engineer at Vox Media was the featured guest on Toolsday podcast.
One of his areas of research and expertise is images and formats. And as a purveyor of performance for one of the largest media properties around, he sees his share of work and challenges.
For the show, he stopped over to talk about gifv. gifv? What is gifv exactly?
The cornerstone of Project GIFV is a platform-wide upgrade to automatically convert uploaded GIF files on the fly into the WebM or MP4 video formats, depending on browser support... With all these improvements, Imgur will now denote converted videos with a “.gifv” extension. - Imigur
Now the why: Jason had been flagged down to look @ a company site that was seemingly slow and after a quick look - 90MB of gifs were loading.
Unfortunately for performance engineers around the world, GIFs made a roaring come back. - Jason Ormand
Concurrently, Jason had been working on a solution around the use of gifs and was delighted to take it live after Safari had delightfully introduced auto playing media/GIFs, since much of the concern was rooted around mobile.
Now opinions of the gif format are as varied. Their use is rampant, but also create their own issues. As Webkit reminds us:
It turns out that people these days really like GIFs. But the GIF format turns out to be a very expensive way to encode animated images when compared to a modern video codec like H.264. We’ve found that GIFs can be up to twelve times as expensive in bandwidth and twice as expensive in energy use. - Webkit Blog
Some (as I) have called it a useless format, others have come to it's defence in varying forms. But the toughest part about allowing and ultimately supporting it's use was summed in a conversation I had w/ Jason moments after:
But really, video is quite a bit harder to do correctly. GIFs are extremely simple. So there is some appeal there. And when you use a "tool" such as a GIF in your personal internet life ... you tend to want to use that tool in your professional life by default. - Jason Ormand
He went on to add:
"I strive to make our sites as fast as possible. But I also have to have exercise empathy by supporting tools and workflows that also work well for editorial teams." - Jason Ormand
Also, Jason brings to fore the extremely commonplace but necessary and engaging use of GIFs on their online sports properties. No disagreement here: #sportsFan. And this is days removed where Pinterest talked about reviewing images and even debating removing them off the page. But one thing is undeniable: gifs are driving engagement/views.
Nonetheless, Jason walks through the solutions employed @ Vox Media using gifv, and how he roped in Thumbor into their workflow. Go ahead and listen to how they went about setting it all up: Toolsday with Jason Ormand.