GIF lovers got giddy for a moment in August 2013 when Giphy claimed that Facebook had started supporting animated GIFs. The press release from the GIF search engine got a lot of attention. But it wasn’t actually true.
GIF is a file format for images. It used to be a dominant file format for graphic files on the web. It’s still widely used for that, although the PNG format has eaten into GIF’s popularity. Both PNG-8 and GIF support up to 256 colors as well as transparency.
In the past couple of years, there’s been a resurgence in the popularity of the GIF format for a different reason. One of the features built into the GIF format (but not PNG) is that it has an animation feature. It was responsible for all those hideous flashing icons and banner ads (think Myspace). Basically, it lets you string several images together to form short video-like clips that play in an endless loop. They’ve become their own art form. Here are some good examples.
Facebook does not currently support the animation feature of the GIF format. You can upload a GIF file, but it’s converted to a JPG file and displayed as a static image of the first frame. It won’t play, even if you click on it.
What Giphy does is cheat. It turns a GIF into a Flash file and presents that instead. As far as Facebook is concerned, it’s a video file. Facebook videos are now set to play automatically–a feature users tend to love or hate.
So no, Facebook doesn’t support animated GIFs. Not yet, at least.