Ode on a Spacer GIF, Sort Of

The spacer GIF gets some love, appreciation, and disdain in this new study:

The invention and dissemination of the spacer gif: implications for the future of access and use of web archives,” Trevor Owens and Grace Helen Thomas, International Journal of Digital Humanities, vol. 1, no. 1, 2019, pp. 71–84. (Thanks to Sarah Rambacher for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the U.S. Library of Congress, report:

“Widely referred to as ‘spacer’ GIFs, these single-pixel, transparent GIFs were used first and foremost as a way of controlling the placement and presentation of content on a website. They were invisible, or rather transparent, i.e. whatever was behind them showed through. However, they still took up space. So a designer could encode into their HTML document any number of spacer GIFs to appear in a row in order to control the placement of any given element on a page. This provided a means of controlling exactly where visual elements would appear on a given web page. As is evident in Fig. 1, they only become visible when broken, when the link to the image file no longer resolves. These tiny files, the presence of which is only conspicuous when they are no longer present, are invaluable aids… enabling scholarly research on the history of the web.”

A Web Site of Its Own, Sort Of

Devotees of the spacer GIF are welcome to visit a web site devoted to the spacer GIF: spacergif.org