Get ready for a GIF-filled Twitter stream!

Steven Loeb · June 18, 2014 · Short URL:

Twitter finally starts supporting animated GIFs inside tweets, though they thankfully don't autoplay

There are times when a company does something and it just makes you smack your head in disbelief. That can be for one of two reasons: either because it has done something incredibly stupid. Or it can be because you cannot believe that they had not already done the same thing a long time ago.

For Twitter on Wednesday, it was definitely the second one.

Today, Twitter announced, via a tweet, that its users can now view and shares GIFs on both mobile and web. And to that I think all of us have to collectively say, "What took you so long?"

In the announcement, Twitter also included a preview of what putting GIFs in your tweets will look like:

As The Next Web pointed out, users did previously have the ability to put the animations into their tweets. Its just that they had to use a third-party platform, such as Giphy. Now they are being supported directly and no longer need that other software to upload them.

GIF, which stands for Graphics Interchange Format, have literally been around for decades, having been introduced in 1987. In other words, they are nothing new. And yet Twitter never got around to actually being able to support them.

How far is Twitter behind the curve on this? Pinterest, a social network that is around four years younger and no where near as established, began experimenting with them in January, with a small rollout of a feature that lets users play them from within pins.

Thankfully, both social networks seem to understand how annoying, and dreadful, the idea of a page full of GIFs going off at once would be, so both Twitter and Pinterest have taken off the automatic play feature.

It should be noted that GIFs are nowhere to be found on Facebook. And if the company's stance on memes is any indication, I would not expect to see them any time soon either. 

There is no indication right now of whether this feature will be available all Twitter users right away, or  if it will it be rolled out. VatorNews has reached out to Twitter to find out, but the company would not comment.

Twitter has recently had a big problem with user growth, which has, in turn, spooked investors and caused the company's  stock to drop. While the move to include GIFs is unlikely to have much of an effect, it at least makes the company seem a bit more fun, and that can never be a bad thing.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.