The tussle over animated GIFs

Today brought a bit of good news from Facebook: The social media mecca has begun rolling out photo comments. Users will now be able to respond to comments with an upload of their favorite cat reaction photo.

But GIFs aren’t allowed.

PhotoCommentsFacebookShortly after Facebook’s announcement, I hit my own Facebook page to upload rogue comments of one of my favorite GIFs: a Japanese Chin with eyebrows stuck to its face. But right after I clicked post, the dog with eyebrows didn’t twirl a single time.

A representative from Facebook confirmed that for now, photo comments work for still images only.

Animated GIFs are polarizing among social-media platforms. They’ve had a meteoric rise on Tumblr, where millions of users share everything from cats hiding in boxes to dramatic scenes from Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta. But they’ve  struggled to share space on other big social-media sites.

Twitter famously banned GIFs from profile icon photos in the fall of last year, and will often lock up if a GIF is natively uploaded via its photo service, so the chances of an animated image making its way into the Twitter stream is low. Instagram also lacks animated photos.

FacebookGIFCommentWhy is the GIF so beloved by users yet so maligned by platforms? A lot of the trouble is the sheer amount of space a GIF takes up compared to a photo — a trouble spot many Tumblr devotees have had to overcome when uploading their own GIFs, as the website has a strict limit of 1MB in file size.

Twitter ultimately nixed the GIF user icons specifically because they were slowing down the API of the platform. Considering the volume of Facebook’s user pool, it’s likely that floods of GIFs would increase load times and even break browsers on occasion.

But these troubles haven’t stopped the GIF from becoming a popular tool for self expression, and I have already seen many Facebook users as disappointed with their frozen photos as I was with poor eyebrow dog.