Just as the Internet is approaching GIF saturation, enter Coub, an evolution of the beloved looped animation. This new file describes itself as the GIF reinvented. But, as far as the actual technology goes, the Coub isn't a GIF at all, as creator Igor Gladkoborodov told The Atlantic Wire. "Technically Coub is a video (encoded in h.264) with additional soundtrack when needed," he wrote to us in an e-mail. "To make a smooth gapless playback we use our custom player made with Flash." (Don't worry iPhone owners, the mobile version runs on HTML5.) While that might turn off GIF purists, from a viewer's perspective, there is a big draw: sound. The GIF is the silent movie to the Coub's talkie. Let's demonstrate with an Internet favorite: Saved by the Bell's Jesse Spano having a caffeine pill freakout. Here's the GIF version:
And now the Coub. (Click to make it go.)
As you can see, the Coub is a hybrid between a GIF and a video, giving us the loopiness of the graphics interface format, with the sound of a YouTube clip. Also, since the Coub is a video, it offers more than the maximum 256 colors the GIF can render, giving us a sharper image, which you can also see in the comparison at the top of this post, from the Coub site. Gif Yoda is grainier than Coub Yoda.
For makers, the Coub also has appeal. While the GIF is easy to put together, requiring a video format and either some GIF fashioning software or Photoshop skills, the Coub is easier. Not because of the technology, but because of the Coub site. (Another ding for GIF lovers?) "Not particularly accomplished GIF-er" Edith Zimmerman at The Hairpin said it took her about two minutes. After signing up with your Facebook account, allowing it to access maybe too much information (pictured below), it takes less than two minutes to either upload a video file or paste in a YouTube or Vimeo link.
Following a short rendering of the file, you can then select the 10 second (or smaller) time frame you would like to Coub, using that blue box below the video.
Click done, the site will do some processing, and then voila: Coubed. From there you can grab the embed code and stick it into a Tumblr or a blog post.
While we find the idea of a noisy GIF enticing, there are plenty of barriers that we foresee prohibiting this newb from taking off. First of all, that name. Not only is the pronunciation of GIF fun (or horrible?) to argue about, it is also a nod to the 25 year history of the format. We all know how much the Internet loves nostalgia. Coub doesn't even attempt to play off that, as Gladkoborodov explains. "A guy who created our inner blog for the project is a huge fan of Inception movie, so he named the blog Cobb – after DiCaprio's character, and it became our inner name of the project," he told The Atlantic Wire. "Later Coub was the closest name to that one and also the shortest domain name we could buy for a reasonable price – it's just cool to have a short url." That's not too inspiring, nor does the Urban Dictionary definition of that word add to its charm. In addition, the format itself is hard to share. It's not as simple as uploading it, like an image. It requires embedding, like a video and the code is only available on the Coub site, not from the actual video itself. Also, the site stops work at times. But, maybe as the company gets bigger those things will improve.
And maybe the GIF doesn't want to be reinvented. The Coub makers say the animated format "had the side effect of being overused, and soon had a stigma of bad taste," which we don't disagree with. But, that doesn't necessary mean evolution is inevitable. The other attempt to advance the GIF, Buzzfeed's rubabble GIF hasn't taken off. Though, it has proven useful for close (and infuriating) sports calls.
With all those limitations, we think this Coub has a chance. Maybe some clever live blogger will use it during tonight's presidential debate, introducing the world to the next big thing in GIFs.