The author in a go-kart
If the Internet is about expression and your avatar is basically you, then you understand the reason for animated GIFs.
The animated GIF may have been certified gold by the Netscape Navigator logo, but much of its ascendence is owed to their use on web forums. Before MySpace--which also allowed GIFs--these were the proto-social networks, and the coolest ones allowed GIFs. Consider the warning at one of many GIF-making avatar sites, Avatar.Pho.to:
Warning! Spending only 1 minute on this page may lead to the creation of one of the best animated avatars from your own photos. Only unique and creative avatars made from your photos are here. More than 70 cool avatar templates available!
Fast forward to now. GIF-making is a form of high art, an emblem of internet-famous music scenes, a process more interesting and more democratic than ever. In its continued flight from an ugly break-up with millions of Reader lovers, Google has been leaving little bread crumbs along the way--or should I say, sweeping indicators of its love for internet nostalgia and animation. Last week, the search giant gifted the web with new image searching capabilities by adding new filters for Animated and Transparent.
And now Google has the presence of mind to let you use GIFs to spice up your Google+ profile picture. Huge.
Think of it as a small bid to outdo Facebook, which never allowed GIFs, and Twitter, which blocked its users from using animated avatars back in September. It's not clear why (Dick Costolo found them annoying apparently). Maybe Twitter just needed to clear its desk before rolling out the new thing, Vine, which so many people at first described as being 'like GIFs.'
It made me sick. Vine is a wonderful thing. It's teaching the mainstream how to loop. I see this dawn of Vine on Twitter as an up-the-ante in the brand's vein of instantaneous communication. More lived, more felt, more befitting than the meta-funtime of GIF making. I'm not thrilled about seeing self-immolating protestors or rape and abuse victims in six-second video loops, but upheaval and revolution have Twitter tweeted all over them. Perhaps the grit with reality further explains Google's embrace of GIFs and break-up with Reader.
As for Twitter's exodus of animated avatars, a spokeswoman for Twitter told Forbes that, "Unfortunately, we don’t have much to share on this." Of course she didn't have much to share.
But while you can't upload a dancing avatar to Twitter anymore, if you already had one before September's exodus, then it has been preserved. Without further ado, then, a modest excavation of some of Twitter's surviving avatars:
RT if u drink a terrible amount of Nestea because its a free promotion when you get a Poland Spring water cooler for your office— retweeted (@ryder_ripps) March 26, 2013
Pro cafe tip: say "no" room from cream an you'll get perfect space for cream. If you ask for room, you'll be robbed of like 5oz at least.— Velcro Fathoms (@VelcroFathoms) March 25, 2013
With 3D printing you can make ANYTHING~! *a perfect replica of you whirrs out of machine* So long... *points gun*— ☆Chris☆ (@PRguitarman) March 25, 2013
shit, i didn't get married before gangnam style— Justin Chun (@Kiptok) December 16, 2012
AMONG THE MANY WEIRD THINGS about working online is that you're exposed to advertising constantly, all day, every day, during work— John Herrman (@jwherrman) March 26, 2013
We can't eat them anymore? MT @themarkberman: There was a Supreme Court decision today re: drug-sniffing dogs (yes, Florida was involved).— Jeb Lund Sese Seko (@Mobute) March 27, 2013
thirst is real— Mr.GIF (@MisterGIF) March 26, 2013
See how much more interesting those ideas are with the GIFs?
I've already presumed Google will try to shift the euthanized Reader into some functionality within its Plus framework as well, nearly forcing us to consider Google+ as the alternative to sharing news, like some jailbroken, Android-ish version of Facebook. But until something like that happens--and so long as the Bing vs. Google+ vs. Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Tumblr vs. Tinder saga glides forward--Google is clearly going for the GIF vote. And Google, you've got mine.