Imgur has been on a quest to upgrade the GIF, and part of that means making GIFs look a whole lot nicer. It's starting to make that happen today with the release of Video to GIF, a simple tool that lets you quickly select a clip from a streaming video — like those on YouTube — and then turn it into a GIF. Except, there's one big catch: most of the time, Video to GIF won't actually present you with a .gif file. It'll give you what Imgur calls a ".gifv," which works much the same way as a true GIF but has some key differences in how it can be played back.
The tool has its problems, but the GIFs look great
Imgur's GIFV (which is really just an approachable name for existing video formats) is great for holding high-quality clips in small sizes that load fast, but they aren't as easy to share as a normal GIF. You need the right embed code to put one on a website, and you're probably not going to be sending these over email unless you feel like digging into the HTML. None of that is terribly difficult — and you'll get a far nicer result for dealing with it — but at this point, it still isn't made quite as simple.
That may be fine for Imgur. Imgur isn't just an image host — it's a network that you're meant to browse around, too. And naturally, GIFV clips look and work perfectly on Imgur itself. That may make Video to GIF more about making the Imgur experience better than it is about making the general GIF experience better. But even so, these clips can still be played back on other websites. The only real problem is that the embed code Imgur provides isn't perfect, so you'll have to do a bit of tinkering to properly share one.
Video to GIF has a few other issues, too. That includes not making it clear whether you're going to get a GIF or a GIFV after conversion (almost always the latter), occasionally cutting the clip too long or starting it too early, offering a text overlay tool that just totally does not work (in our tests), and frequently failing during its conversion process. Video to GIF will let you download a GIF version of your GIFVs most of the time, but because they're optimized to look so good, they'll be at a large size that's far from shareable.
Imgur clearly still has some work to do with Video to GIF, but even after all of those complaints, it's hard to say that it isn't on to something. The tool is really easy to use, and seriously, just look at how nice this GIF is:
Update January 29th, 12:35PM ET: This story has been updated to note that Imgur frequently allows users to download .gif versions of clips that are presented as a GIFV. This story previously stated that Imgur would only deliver one format or the other.