Safari in iOS 10 Offers Improved Animated GIF Viewing and Stops Noisy Autoplay Videos
In iOS 10, Apple plans to make some changes to the way videos are handled, putting a stop to irritating autoplay videos and offering improvements to animated GIFs. The changes will come in the form of updated policies for "video" elements, as outlined today by Apple software engineer Jer Noble on the Webkit blog
As iOS 8 and iOS 9 users know, an animated GIF encoded using "video" tags requires users to tap on the GIF to play it as a video would play, creating a frustrating user experience. When viewing such a GIF, it's currently necessary to load the image, tap it to play, and wait for it to be displayed full screen. In iOS 10, the user experience is being simplified.
Going forward, Webkit will allow videos with no audio element or a muted audio element to honor autoplay attributes, so GIFs and videos in this format will no longer require a tap to play automatically. Videos that use the "video playsinline" element will also be able to play inline without the need to enter fullscreen mode.
At the same time, videos that do have an audio element will be automatically paused and will require a user gesture to play, cutting down on irritating advertisements and other spam-type videos. Autoplay video elements will play only when on screen and will pause whenever they are not visible, which will help to preserve battery life.
Starting in iOS 10, WebKit relaxes its inline and autoplay policies to make these presentations possible, but still keeps in mind sites' bandwidth and users' batteries. [...]
We believe that these new policies really make video a much more useful tool for designing modern, compelling websites without taxing users bandwidth or batteries.
GIFs that use the video element have smaller file sizes and thus use less bandwidth and less energy, making them an appealing alternative to the GIF format. Displaying GIFs this way is growing in popularity, and iOS users will no longer have a subpar viewing GIF experience on popular sites like Imgur. The full Webkit video policies and use case examples are available through the Webkit blog post.
The changes to Safari will be implemented as part of iOS 10, currently available to developers and public beta testers. iOS 10 will see a release this fall, likely alongside new iOS devices.
Top Rated Comments
"Animated GIF" is a specific term for a specific thing with specific technical meaning--something that is widely used at that. Small looping video clips in another format, even if they serve the same purpose (and do it drastically better since animated GIF compression is embarrassingly inefficient), are no more "animated GIFs" than a RAW file is a JPEG.
We don't call a JPEG image of some text a "web page", we don't call FLAC files "MP3s", and if you start calling blu-ray discs or VCDs "DVDs", even though they all store video and look superficially the same, you're going to get some very annoyed people.
Why should any self-respecting news outlet call proper looping video clips "animated GIFs" when they're not?
I'm personally not a fan of using the GIF term like that, it's too ambiguous. I guess we would need a shorter term than "soundless autoplaying looping inline video".
We should create that term, and while we're at it, create an actual replacement for the GIF format that's both standard and portable.