Back to Basics 14 WebsiteCompass In 1994, a dispute arose regarding the process that made the GIF possible. This process had earlier been patented by Unisys Corp, which stated that it would begin charging a fee for the use of its technology. Some developers accepted the situation, while others avoided the charge by creating GIFs using a different process and developing alternative formats, such as the PNG. At that time, many stopped creating and using GIFs, so the format went underground for a few years. However, consumers missed the GIF, and it made a return, maintaining its role in online communication ever since. What’s Great About GIFs? If you’ve never used GIFs, consider doing so for the following reasons: • They’re popular. Many people are entertained and enlightened by GIFs in both personal and professional contexts. • They’re unexpected. Though GIFs are popular, they’re not always expected, and are a nice alternative to text, static images, videos, and emojis. • They’re universal. The GIF format was created to work across a wide variety of computing platforms, so you can use them just about anywhere. • They express emotion in a unique way. Being happy about something and writing “Yay!” is somehow not quite the same as posting a GIF of Elmo doing a happy dance. • There’s one for every occasion. Spend just a few minutes on GIPHY, the top source for GIFs, and you’ll see everything —including late-night talk show hosts, cute animals, sports teams, and movie clips. GIF Guidance Like every online communication method, GIFs have their own set of unwritten rules. If you’re new to GIFs or want to use them more effectively, check out these suggestions. DO • Choose each GIF carefully to be sure it truly expresses your sentiment. • Use GIFs in your promotional materials if you own or manage a small business. • Animate data in business presentations to make the information more interesting. • Create your own GIFs if you’re so inclined. DON’T • Think that GIFs are just for younger users or for personal use only. They are now well accepted by all generations and (within reason) in professional settings. • Overuse GIFs. Part of their appeal is that they often appear unexpectedly. • Rely on the same GIFs all the time. Pick new ones to freshen up your messages. • Use GIFs that might be offensive to your audience. Debate Over How to Pronounce GIF When the man credited with creating the GIF format, Steve Wilhite, recently passed away, debate over how to pronounce the name of his creation was renewed. Wilhite himself always said it should be pronounced “jif,” like the peanut butter brand. The J. M. Smucker Company, which owns Jif, agreed, tweeting, “It’s pronounced JIF.” But others argued it should be pronounced with a hard “g” sound because the word it stands for, “graphics,” is pronounced that way. The Oxford English Dictionary, which is about as authoritative source as you can imagine, approves both pronunciations and selected GIF as its Word of the Year in 2012. The debate is so active that, in 2020, Time published a timeline about it, starting in 1987 when Wilhite quipped, “Choosy developers choose JIF.” Even President Obama picked a side, proclaiming it should be pronounced with a hard “g” like “grape.” Most Americans agree with him; a 2014 survey revealed that the hard “g” pronunciation beat the soft “g” one, 54% to 41%. GIF! JIF!