For almost a decade, Mark Zuckerberg and his team at Facebook chose to keep animated GIF images out of their social platform as they felt it would make the pages chaotic and affect user experience. But, now, Facebook has finally decided to give animated GIFs the green flag, albeit on an experimental basis.
The Story Till Now
Facebook has had built-in support for animated GIFs for a long time – it just didn’t activate it until now.
As of May this year, Facebook allowed non-business users to post GIFs on their news feed. Since August, select businesses could play animated GIFs in ads and boosted posts. However, users cannot upload them directly from one’s computer. Instead, if the animated GIF is already up on the internet, they can paste the link to the GIFs in their status update box. Those who have auto-play enabled can immediately see the GIF in action whereas those with auto-play disabled can tap or click on the GIF to play it.
Facebook intends to monitor the response to these ads and based on it, they plan to make it widely available.
Why Did Facebook Change Their Mind?
There are couple of reasons that could have led to Facebook reversing its decision to keep GIFs away from its site.
- With the rising popularity of animated GIFs among its younger audience and considering the fact that almost every social media network, including Twitter, Google+ and BuzzFeed have adopted it, it does not make good business sense to stay away from it any longer.
- Facebook’s success with video ads has also been a deciding factor in allowing animated GIFs. The decision taken in 2013 to allow video ads in news feeds did not have any negative repercussions. Users seemed to love it and hence, Facebook hopes animated GIFs would also be received well by people.
With the improvement in web browsers, GIFs can be played better today compared to a few years ago. They load faster giving an optimal user experience. Brandon Rhoten, Vice President in charge of advertising, media and digital at Wendy’s, says the fast food giant has found Facebook videos to be useful in increasing sales and he is trying to repeat the same success with animated GIFs.
Another reason is Facebook is trying to up its revenue from ads. Many advertisers feel an ad featuring an animated GIF is more likely to catch customer attention than one featuring a static image. Also, it can be a lot cheaper than producing a video. Hence, the decision to allow animated GIFs is bound to find favour among advertisers, bringing in more revenue for Facebook.
Is allowing animated GIFs a big risk?
Facebook’s primary fear that constantly moving images will make the pages look cluttered and have a negative user experience is valid. Too many animated GIFs can be distracting and where people may respond positively to a video, they might not feel the same way towards a bunch of images in constant, repetitive motion. It is this that has prompted the decision to launch it on an experimental basis, monitor public response and then take the decision to implement it on a large scale.
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