If it's Google's official policy to "allow" GIFs then the subject shifts to (i) how consistently do they load correctly (moving as opposed to frozen) (ii) will animated GIFs become more easily searchable on Google Images? (iii) what kinds of limits will be put on GIF use (such as Tumblr's GIF size limit of 500 (?) kb)
and (iv) why don't animated GIFs work on all Google products? (One of Tom's commenters notes that GIFs don't animate on the Android phone operating system).
Whether diminishing GIF support by the large software companies is just underexamined groupthink, snobbery among middle-echelon designers, or something else, there are social issues to consider and discuss. Concerns about any top-down edict or attempt to impose a "one-way web" are not conspiracy theory. There is a political aspect to GIF use and denying it as just as political as pointing it out. (A recap for those just joining us: GIFs are easy to make, can be read on any browser, and aren't dependent on proprietary software you have to buy, and are thus a cheap, easy way to get out messages ranging from pie-in-the-face gags to mind-bending psychedelia to dangerous political agitprop. For a small handful, GIFs represent the use of an old, supposedly outmoded form to critique present ideas of progress and planned obsolescence. Meanwhile, as fate would have it, the big software companies are trying to move "portable" animation to more controllable but still mostly inferior tools, or eliminate it altogether. The merest hint of any cause and effect among these elements makes some people very abusive and dismissive.)
If Google is embracing GIFs (which is probably too strong) we need to re-read Olia Lialina's essay Vernacular Web 2 and think about ways corporate "home pages" might co-opt the amateur look. The ironies and contradictions of Tom (a former Rupert Murdoch employee after Murdoch sold MySpace at a whopping loss) appearing on Google to high-five GIFs in the context of a Google vs Facebook war to woo "the kids" threaten to reach head-exploding levels without some guidance to help us think our way through them. (The class issues of MySpace vs Facebook, raised by a certain Nasty Nets member, are gotten into a bit in the sidebar to that essay, written several years ago.)
hat tip drx
*with or without working out all the bugs and limitations of the HTML5 animation