Some late-breaking comments on the GIF thread from hell. If you can't attack an argument you must demolish the credibility of the person making it, so suffice it to say I am now little more than a smoldering pile of ash. I did help one reader refine his views, though, going from "Who knows why Google chose HTML5?" (for its Martha Graham animation) to speculating that it was because mobile browsers lack adequate GIF support. This same commenter goes on to bluster that
Tying Google's tech choices re: their doodles to policies against GIFs on their other sites (like Blogger) is naive (and, frankly, stupid). Facebook, Twitter (& whomever else) block animated GIFs for 1 reason (which you already mentioned): they don't want to be Myspace.
Paddy Johnson agrees :( and suggests that
what's happening to GIFs seems a little like the Polaroid problem to me. People still make the film, but it's impossible to find. Not being able to shoot Polaroid doesn't mean that artists will stop being creative, but it does mean they may have to switch mediums if it's no longer practical. That will be more painful to some artists than others.
To which I replied:
If we don't know why Google blocks GIFs in one arm of its company and pushes other animation methods in another (and we don't), why is it automatically naive to consider connections between the two? More is at stake here than the type of "film" we use; it is completely fair to consider an across-the-board GIF phase-out in the larger context of the Web becoming a more controlled and controllable place (see my comment to Duncan below). "They don't want to be MySpace" is also pure speculation.
Duncan Alexander, in another late-breaking (and excellent) comment, said that "it's apples and oranges to compare GIFs to code hacks," to which I replied
It's not an apples and oranges debate though, or people wouldn't be yelling so much. Google doesn't mean to replace GIFs with another filetype people can share and take apart and play with. On its flagship search page it is clearly presenting its vision of a "one way web" crafted by its owners where the terms of your interaction are "click here" and "save your results." To consider the political dimension isn't conspiracy theory or empty railing against the man, it's a question of what kind of internet (and therefore, life) we want to have.
In an era when Facebook=Web this has mostly been decided for us and bemoaning the fate of the GIF does have a hopeful, 2004 ring to it. Consider these arguments back-dated.