Another day, another rancorous discussion of animated GIFs. This topic brings out the worst in people, possibly because livelihoods are threatened. If everyone can do web design, who needs to hire designers? The cross-posted comment below is out of context but responds to several topics on the thread. The first refers to AFC intern Will Brand's leading questions about "GIF partisanship":
Paddy, Will designed the web page for you that has links to many of my (and others') writings on the subject of "why artists use GIFs": http://www.artfagcity.com/gif/links.php
He knows my answers to his questions, he is being needlessly confrontational here.
As I said in one of the posts linked to on that page: "Have said before that I'm not married to the animated GIF for 'artistic expression' on the web. If at some point only of 40% of browsers, mobile devices, etc read them then it will be time to use something else."
Michael Manning is correct that we use GIFs because they're still the best for what they do--quick easily loaded animations that read on the most browsers. He's also right that the big companies are phasing them out without offering a better alternative. Some of us like the "GIF aesthetic" of reduced frame rates, compression, etc, but that's mainly a stylistic choice.
In light of "cinemagraphs" Reddit has a discussion on "successors to the animated GIF": http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/i23fk/why_there_is_no_successor_of_animated_gif_format/ (hat tip Andrej)
That thread reiterates some of what has been said here but doesn't mention CSS.
Adding: the "canvas" element is a tag that can be added to HTML5 pages. It's not for animation per se. The main advantage of canvas seems to be interactivity--you can draw in it. In any case it's not in wide use and isn't really being proffered as a GIF substitute--please correct me if I'm wrong about this.