If you’ve used YouTube on the desktop recently you might have noticed a slight change in the user experience. YouTube GIF thumbnails are now live for a larger number of users. Google’s online video streaming service actually launched this functionality back in February for select users and it’s now available for almost all users.
The functionality itself is pretty self-explanatory. You just have to hover the pointer over the thumbnail of a YouTube video and a short GIF will play automatically which will give you a good idea of what to expect from the video.
When the pointer is hovered over the thumbnail, the GIF plays three seconds of the video without sound. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff by any means, but it does make the user experience a bit better for the countless people that use YouTube every single day.
YouTube says that GIF thumbnail previews are now live for most users on YouTube homepages, watch page, search results, trending tab as well as the subscriptions tab.
The only caveat here is that GIF thumbnail previews work with Chrome versions 32 and up and Opera version 19 and up. YouTube says that GIF thumbnail previews are not available for mobile users at this point in time.
To be eligible for a GIF thumbnail, a YouTube video has to be 30 seconds at least. YouTube decides which videos are going to get the animated thumbnail based on video topic and content. Any new video that doesn’t get a GIF thumbnail within two days isn’t going to get one at all.