Facebook this afternoon confirmed that it will now support animated GIFs in the Facebook News Feed. Not everyone will see the added functionality immediately, we understand, as the update is still rolling out. The move represents a significant change in direction for Facebook, which has historically made a conscious decision to avoid supporting GIFs, claiming that doing so would make its News Feed “too chaotic.”
Instead of allowing GIFs, Facebook’s focus to date has been on video. The company introduced support for auto-playing videos in late 2013, but despite bringing a more lively, animated feel to the News Feed, the move did not lead Facebook to rolling out support for GIFs. Neither did the introduction of support for GIFs on Twitter last summer — a change that some felt might force Facebook’s hand in the matter.
Though Facebook had built in support for GIFs for quite some time, the company has long felt that GIFs could lead to the site being cluttered with low-quality memes, as we previously reported.
That decision, however, has been reversed today.
To try the new feature, Facebook users can paste a link to a GIF hosted on an external website like Giphy, Imgur, Tumblr, or elsewhere, into their status update box and then publish. The GIF will be animated inline after you post. You can’t currently upload GIFs directly, however, and see the same results.
GIFs will auto-play on Facebook in line with your current video autoplay settings. If you choose to disable autoplay in your settings, you can tap or click a GIF (as indicated by “GIF” in a white circle on the image) to play it instead.
We’ve tested the functionality on Facebook brand pages, and found that the above steps don’t work. That implies that Facebook is either rolling out the feature to personal profiles first, or it has made the decision to restrict the functionality from being used by brands period. (Update: We understand now that Facebook will not support GIFs on Pages or in Facebook ads.)
We also found that GIFs were automatically animated in the Facebook native mobile application, but not on the mobile website. It’s unclear at this time whether or not the latter issue is related to a delayed rollout, and have asked Facebook to confirm.
We’ve also asked Facebook to provide further technical details surrounding its GIF support, including its plans for mobile support, Pages support, and more. We’ll update when the company responds. In the meantime, a company spokesperson provided the following statement:
“We’re rolling out support for animated GIFs in News Feed. This is so you can share more fun, expressive things with your friends on Facebook.”