Here is a spontaneous idea I had yesterday: Let’s give APNG another chance!
Recently, Gfycat (based on WebM) and GIFV (based on MP4) want to provide an alternative for GIFs and promise higher image quality, smaller sizes and total excitement:) But wait – aren’t WebM and MP4 video formats? Jup. Despite their advantages they also come along with some aspects that are totally untypical in GIF culture:
- You can pause, fast-forward or scan the video. But maybe the missing control over the animation is not only a limitation but an essential part of GIF culture…
- The loop is enabled by the way the website embeds the file. If you safe a WebM or MP4 on your computer, you obviously get a video file. Without the loop!
Why use a GIF alternative anyway?
There are good reasons. GIF was great in the early days of the web. But it was outdated in the mid-90s already. The desire for better quality and lower file sizes is perfectly understandable. But thinking about the other impacts WebM and MP4 have, I think it would be nice to have a GIF alternative which is actually an image file.
There is no need for a new “burnallgifs” or “burnallwebms”, let’s avoid fundamentalism here. They are established and have their fanbase. WebMs are great for a very certain genre of “GIFs”: High Quality GIFs, which are often long, narrative, video-like pieces. And GIFs are just not capable to fulfill those aspects properly. But perhaps for a Reaction GIF, a funny and looped cat fight or cinemagrams APNG might be a promising alternative.
Why – of all the possibilities – use APNG?
- PNG already convinced users to not use GIFs when it comes to still images
- APNG gets very close to the behaviour of animated GIFs (with some improvements). Videos don’t.
- It’s free software. That’s maybe not the most mind-blowing fact. But the developers of APNG did a very good job for the community for free. I’d like to honour that.
- APNG already is supported by Firefox, Safari 8 and older versions of Opera. For Chrome there is an add-on. And IE users have other things to think about:)
- And in those cases where PNG animation is not enabled, the first frame is always displayed as a fallback still image. You can even define a frame that’s only shown in this case and could contain some note like “This could be animated. Try opening it on Firefox/Safari. APNG is great <3”.
Why not MNG or WebP?
MNG has one main problem: Although it’s based on PNG, it’s a separate file format. That might be the reason why MNG support in browsers and in general is rather disappointing.
WebP is, just like WebM, developed by Google and therefore supported by Chrome. It’s nice to see that still new file formats pop up which allow animation, but the skill test results are not that convincing. But if you like WebP, you might want to have look at /webps at reddit, if you use Chrome or Opera.
Wait, why didn’t anybody use APNG before?
Well, my theory: It’s just that the APNG-content was missing. Therefore the userbase was missing. Therefore the APNG-content was missing. And so on.
OK, how do we start?
APNG should work on every social network, forum or whatever community site that allows PNG, because the file ending is also “.png”. If you want to create APNGs, you can for example use some of the following tools:
I admit: this is the crucial point right now. APNG creation is not that comfy as it is with GIF or Gfycat/GIFV. But for a start take a look around the web for already existing APNGs. Some sites provide APNG collections. Check out /apng on reddit or the apng tag on tumblr. And there are GIF artists experimenting with the format, for example davidope.
Ok, one last point: How do we call it, then? “GIF/APNG/WebM culture” is not quite handy.
This issue must/should remain unsolved at this point. And who am I to decide? GIF culture belongs to all of us and we will find ways to name it. Maybe we’ll still call it GIF (or “‘jif’ is the format. ‘gif’ is the culture“), maybe it’ll be “web animations” or “flickpics” (instead of Flip books) or whatever we can think of. I like the German word “Zappelbilder” (maybe something like “fidget pictures” in English), although it rather describes 90s-style GIFs.