Vimeo, the YouTube alternative that has carved a niche in high resolution videos, acquired Echograph, an IOS app that allows users to create and share tiny animated photos or “echographs.” You can think of an echograph as a photo in motion, or as a short muted video that loops infinitely without any play or stop buttons.

The truth is that “echograph” is just a fancy name for a 24 year old image compression format that is called animated GIF. Echographs, like GIFs, have very a very limited color depth and low refresh rates. The compression algorithm is also dated, so the size of the file could be a lot smaller.

Why should Pinterest, Facebook and Google pay attention to a 24 year old technology?

An echograph is neither a video or a photo – it is as quick as reading an SMS, yet it is more alive that a photo. With Valentine’s behind us, you could ask yourself how would you rather have sent a e-kiss to your loved one? A photo will certainly do the job, and a video, although more intimate sounds like an overkill. An echograph could come in to fill this space between the video and the photo.

Think of your Pinterest homepage. How cool would it be if some of your photos were moving in short loops without you requiring to press any play buttons?

Creating echographs might take a bit more skills that taking a snap. Mobile applications could be filling this space rather quickly in the following months. If Facebook does not want to pull its wallet for an Instagram-type acquisition again, it should pay attention.

Vimeo’s acquisition of Echograph signals a strategic move of the company into mobile. According to Techcrunch, the Echograph creator Nick Alt will become the VP of mobile in Vimeo to spearhead development.

Since GIFs are so limited, it is likely that a new format evolves to offer higher image quality and lower file size. However, by that time the war between GIF applications will be in full swing.

The other possibility is that users embrace the return to GIF, very much like audio lovers have started returning to vinyl over the last few years. What do you think?

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