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How Apple's iMessage And Animated GIFs Could Change Communication

Yesterday’s Apple event may have left many fans disappointed, with the much anticipated iPhone 5 announcement turning out to be a measly iPhone 4S. Still, the phone’s new features—a better 8-megapixel camera, faster speed, longer battery life, and an AI voice-controlled “personal assistant” called Siri—gave gadget geeks plenty to salivate over. Not the least of which is the upcoming release of iOS 5, which goes live October 12th and brings more than 200 new features to your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, including Apple’s response to BlackBerry’s beloved BBM: the iMessage.

iMessage is a new messaging service that works with all your iOS 5 devices and, in addition to the standard text and images, supports animated GIFs, an interesting move on Apple’s part that seems to give credence to the GIF renaissance we’ve noted previously. GIFs are already a major component of the web’s vernacular, thanks in large part to sites like 4Chan, Tumblr and Dump.fm, as well as a popular format among new media artists. Taking the format mobile seems to reinforce the place of the GIF in our rapidly evolving visual vernacular, which sees people increasingly communicating via images rather than text.

This shift to a more visually-based mode of communication is bolstered by the likes of YouTube and Instagram, and is reflected in the recent explosion in data visualizations and infographics. So far, GIFs have yet to hit the mainstream in a major way (dancing baby memes notwithstanding) but their inclusion in iMessage may help change that. If paired with the integration of point-and-shoot GIF-creating apps like 3frames and giffer, or potentially some kind of GIF glossary similar to the kind you get with Emoji icons, the GIF may soon play an even greater role in moving our preferred mode of communication towards the visual.

Which begs the question, what does this mean for GIF artists? Will the vernacularization of the GIF make it a more or less attractive format for artists to explore?

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