Animated GIFs, the 256-color silent alternative to genuine video capture, have seen something of a resurgence in popularity in recent years, particularly as social media enthusiasts have embraced services with a self-consciously “retro” aesthetic such as Instagram and its numerous imitators. The inherent technical limitations of GIF files give them a gritty rawness that the high-quality video shot by modern smartphones just doesn’t match — plus the fact that they’re just an image file means that they can be displayed on pretty much any device capable of displaying Web pages; there’s no messing around with codecs or ensuring compatibility with different operating systems — a GIF is a GIF, whatever it’s being viewed on.
The fact that GIFs are once again growing in popularity among the social photo and video sharing community means that there has also been a glut of GIF-making apps in recent months. The latest of these is Gifstory from Ultralab Apps, who was last seen with the “weather forecast meets Instagram” app Ultraweather.
Gifstory is, as the name suggests, an app designed for quickly and easily making and sharing animated GIFs with both the Gifstory community and the world as a whole. After signing in to the service using either a proprietary account or Facebook — a process which spat out a couple of indecipherable errors during testing but which subsequently worked fine — the user is able to find friends via Facebook, Twitter or their device’s address book, explore featured content, search for users or browse their profile information and notifications. When browsing images, users may “like” and comment on them, and also optionally share them to Facebook and/or Twitter if they desire. It’s possible to share to both Facebook and Twitter simultaneously, which is a nice feature that other apps of this type tend to lack.
Creating a new GIF is a simple matter of tapping the camera button in the lower-middle of the screen. Up to 60 frames may be recorded into the “story” and, much like the popular social video-sharing app Vine, recording may be started and stopped instantly by pressing and holding the record button when the user would like to record frames, and releasing when they would like to stop or change the angle. The camera facility also allows the user to “backspace” over their last few recorded frames if they didn’t release the record button early enough, and it also supports switching between the front and rear cameras and turning on the LED flash as a “flashlight” to illuminate a scene. Once a GIF has been created, it may have one of a variety of non-customizable Instagram-style filters applied to it and be played either forwards or in reverse. After these options have been selected, the finished GIF is uploaded and is visible for all to see — prior to uploading, the user may optionally choose to share to Facebook and/or Twitter as well as the Gifstory network if they so desire. There is no facility to make uploaded GIFs “private” and only share them selectively; all must be uploaded to the Gifstory network.
Gifstory is a solid app that performs exactly the function it claims it will. While its mobile-social network features are nothing special, the GIF-making facility is well thought out and intuitive. Stop-motion animators would perhaps prefer the option to take a single frame at a time rather than holding or releasing the record button, but for the most part this is a good solution to those who want to get in on the GIF craze. The files it outputs look good and are easy to share on other social networks. While the app will only be of interest to those who specifically want to use animated GIFs rather than genuine video files, it is, if nothing else, an interesting curiosity that is fun to play around with every so often.
You can follow Gifstory’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.