Google launches Data GIF Maker to help storytellers convey information through animations

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In an age of ubiquitous computing and high-bandwidth video streaming capabilities from our pockets, the fact that the humble GIF continues to thrive is a remarkable feat. But its success is testament to the 30-year-old file format’s continued support, and ability to convey information (and entertain) without requiring huge processing power.

Indeed, GIFs continue to be used for many purposes, which is why Google has launched the Data Gif Maker, a tool aimed at helping journalists and storytellers convey information visually through simple animations.

“Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex,” said Simon Rogers, data editor at the Google News Lab, in a blog post. “In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.”

The Data GIF Maker is pretty simple to use, though it is fairly narrow in scope. It’s basically designed to help people show how two competing “things” compare to each other in terms of popularity, such as sales of a particular product, or the frequency of two items in search engines, and requires the user to manually enter the information and then download the GIF.

Above: Data GIF: Batman vs. Superman

The advent of the internet and big data has given birth to a number of businesses that serve to help people make sense of the deluge of information at their disposal and tell meaningful stories. For example, Latvian infographics and data visualization company Infogram offers a slick WYSIWYG editor that converts users’ data into infographics that can be published or embedded anywhere, and earlier this month it was acquired by Prezi.

Other companies are making moves to monetize GIFs specifically. Last month Tenor launched real-time analytics tool, designed to educate marketers on using GIFs.

Google’s GIF effort is limited in its ambitions for now, but as an experiment it could be turbo-charged in the future to enable GIFs with far greater detail and multiple data points.


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