Animated GIFs have long severed the Internet adequately for short, low-quality animated cat and sleazy porn videos. Google improved on the decades-old GIF technology with WebM, a format that has better compression, lets you watch cat videos in true color instead of a crappy 256 color pallet, a higher frame rate (like 60fps), greater CPU and RAM efficiency – it’s a far superior format for AniGIF purposes and others, good for cat videos, good for 4K surround sound screeners too beamed from your phone to your Chromecast.

So, four month’s ago, 4chan, pioneers of technological progress, to torrid nerd debate, historically and heroically opened its doors to its users posting WebMs. This interested me because they still allowed GIFs, so by allowing both formats, I could swing by and use the ratio of WebMs to GIFs posted on the site’s /gif/ board at a given time as an indication that the people of the web are readier and more eager than Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple thinks to take advantage of better mathematics which as we all know tends to come from Google engineers.

Indeed that is already the case: Sacrificing my innocence, I just did a survey of the top-trafficked 4chan /gif/ board threads, and I found 1014 WebMs to 326 GIFs among them. That’s three WebMs for every GIF. Huge!

Wait, there’s more! Today is now the next day, and for scientific formidability, I performed another survey of twelve threads, this time opening what I’ll just refer to as threads that caught my eye (I have good taste…) rather than the biggest threads, and came up with 512 WebMs to 116 GIFs, almost a *fivefold* dominance of WebMs versus GIFs. Frickin’ fivefold!

Meaning, in only four months, due to a new and largely-unknown and not fully-adopted format being better than another that has had multiple decades to gain traction, looping video enthusiasts created mostly-new material at high enough a rate to displace the dominant concentration of GIFs (these GIFs come from the web’s massive archive, whereas the WebMs are a from-scratch operation) from being posted by a dramatic margin I didn’t see coming. The other thing that came with the WebM package was different HTML, the video tag instead of the IMG tag, and an (false) fear of not being able to save the clips.

Moreover, these huge and rapid gains in spite of only 62% browser support throughout the web, a figure that is much higher on 4chan because people want the better format badly enough to switch browsers. Are you listening, Microsoft, Apple and Blackberry? No, still going down with the Flash ship?

The web is not nearly good enough and if you give the people the superior math they will use it. If you don’t, your browser will continue to bleed customers to Chrome, Chromium, Opera, Maxthon and others that are quick to embrace advancement (also WebP, SPDY, QUIC, HSTS, PFS and so forth) even when it’s a schlep to evangelize.

Now, if you’re wondering what 4chan is, stop right there, and I am being serious now to save your soul: Bro, do not google it, it’s not for you, you can’t unsee that dark place, please take my word for it and stay away. But if you’ve fallen into the abyss already, the cliff beyond the Rye, consider evolving 4chan activity as a microcosm of web surfers and a resource of data that when used correctly tells a story and offers a view of the future, one which will, evidently, still include porn and cat pictures, just in better quality and in fewer bytes.

Progress my friends. Behold, the power of the cat video.

Doug Simmons

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