The Graphics Interchange Format1 might be useful for people who love sharing cats and 3-second movie clips. These people certainly think they’re useful, and I won’t take that away from them. But they have no place in the professional developer environment.

In the building of UIs, it often becomes necessary to share a brief clip that demonstrates the user experience. When it comes to this, you have two choices: you can use a MPEG-4 Part 144 uploaded to a service like Screencast, or you can use the Graphics Interchange Format uploaded to a service like CloudApp. The former choice is the better one. The problems with the Graphics Interchange Format are legion. I’ll enumerate the more burdensome.

  1. It takes longer to begin watching a clip in this format than in a standard video format. The reason is because you must load the entire resource before you can begin it. There is no concept of “buffering” or “streaming.”
  2. Not only does it take longer, but because there is no “play” button, you are not in control of when it starts playing. The resource begins playing as soon as it is ready to do so, not when you are ready to do so. What this means is that you must sit there idly waiting for the resource, rather than doing something else whilst you wait. You dare not switch tabs because the file will begin playing at a time you think not.
  3. Likewise, because there is no “pause” button and no ability to scrub, if you want to revisit a certain piece of a 30-second clip, or if your impatience gets the better of you in the previous bullet and you miss the start, you must wait the duration of the clip. This is egregious.
  4. The determination of whether the file loops or not is determined by the creator of the file, not by the consumer of the file. More often than not, the author chooses to loop, which means you have a hideous distraction before your eyes after the first or second viewing.
  5. In order to avoid said distraction, Slack has made it possible to disable the animation of Graphics Interchange Format files in settings. Because of this, sharing such a file is no guarantee that the recipient will actually receive what the sender intended — they might instead receive a static image frozen on the first frame. On the contrary, when you share a proper video, you have a guarantee that the recipient gets what you sent and nothing less.
  6. The colors are limited.
  7. The frame count is limited.

The Graphics Interchange Format robs mankind of everything that is decent and noble in frame sharing. Do not use this format for professional use.

  1. You’ll pardon the verbosity. I’m still recovering from the use of acronyms during my 4-month stint earlier this year in corporate America. ↩︎