Internet Lore Unpacked: How to Pronounce GIF and More Mysteries Solved

March 22, 2024 • Shannon Flynn


If there is anything known about the universe, the internet is a weird place. Since its inception, it has been subject to strange stories and heated debates that have leaked from the digital to the physical world. Now, it’s all a part of culture. People have searched on engines for years on how to pronounce GIF or discover what happened to the internet-that-once-was from their youth. 

Here are some answers and highlights on what has fascinated internet crawlers for decades.

Learn How to Pronounce GIF

Everyone has marveled at the refined art of curating the perfect GIF in response to a text message. They are one of the best file types, yet the pronunciation has sparked controversy. There are two camps — people who pronounce it with a hard “g” like “gift,” or like the branded peanut butter, Jif. Which side is right?

This query became so mainstream that even the famous peanut butter producer tweeted about it, and hilarious renderings of the jar took over the internet. To save you the headache of scouring mile-long forums and articles, there is a definitive answer.

CNN posted an article in 2013 with an interview with the creator of the GIF file format, Steve Wilhite. He had one thing to say:

“It’s pronounced JIF, not GIF.”

close up of peanut butter

There’s a catch. How to pronounce GIF changed throughout history to the hard “g” sound. The Oxford Dictionary and Mental Floss said it could be pronounced either way. But, even the site GIPHY teamed up with Jif to create a campaign reminding everyone how to pronounce GIF. It’s a hard “g,” though this probably isn’t the end of it.

How to Read 1337 5P341<

Also called leet, leetspeak or eleet, 1337 speak — stylized as 5P341< — is an internet language primarily used by gamers and hackers. You might think of coding languages like Python or C++, but this is much more straightforward. To read it, you must replace letters with numbers or characters that resemble the letter. 

For example, A is 4, G is 6, and S is $. Leet is sometimes a combination of letters and numbers or only numbers and characters. Some letters combine multiple things, like the letter W, as a combination of forward and backward slashes. Now, you can read classic internet slang terms. 

Cicada 3301, Who?

Remember the internet’s favorite classic, degenerate forum website 4chan? It was the origin of the internet mystery puzzle series Cicada 3301. There were only three puzzles between 2012 and 2014. Some claim it is an alternate reality game, the source of a cult, or a recruitment project for a secret international cypherpunk enterprise.

A user by the name of 3301 posted a cryptic message on 4chan, suggesting there was a hidden message inside that only “highly intelligent” people could find. The post suggested the creator was attempting to draft people for a project, but people weren’t sure what for. 

Internet sleuths traveled the world, parsed code, unpacked audio files and decoded books to reach the end of a puzzle. As of 2023, the end of the third puzzle has not been obtained, as cryptographers are still attempting to translate 3301’s runic text “Liber Primus.”

What Happened to LimeWire?

Back then, people used Megaupload, YouTube audio rippers and more to grab MP3s for their iPods and Microsoft Zunes. The most popular file-sharing platform was the infamous LimeWire. It normalized pirating with its easy UI and vast library. What happened to it, and why don’t people use it anymore — apart from the fact people are more aware of how stealing music from artists impacts their success?

Similar programs like FrostWire have come out of the woodwork as a spiritual successor to the legendary original.

A lawsuit in 2010 dismantled the company for good, as Arista Records LLC claimed the platform induced copyright infringement. With a settlement of $105 million, the program was forgotten until 2022, when it became an AI-powered NFT website where people still share art and music, much like its ancestor.

Tom Anderson’s Whereabouts

Hello, my friend, Tom. Remember his white t-shirt and smiling face from Myspace’s heyday? It’s probably been a minute since you’ve even thought about this platform, right around when sites like Omegle, Livejournal and Tumblr were at their peak. Since Myspace’s quiet death into obscurity, whatever happened to the social media pioneer? 

The site has been sold and bought numerous times, with the most recent acquisition being in 2019 by Viant Technology LLC. Tom has not been involved on the platform since 2009 but has become an investor, world traveler and avid photographer with a continued interest in social platforms and tech. He retired over a decade ago, resting comfortably as a multi-millionaire. His photographs are out of this world, and many social bios still acknowledge him as the “first friend.”

pineapple on pizza

Honorable Mentions for the Internet’s Most Debated Topics

There are no answers — only typing in all caps to fight for your camp. Though these questions have been asked since the dawn of time, these are niche discussions that became popular and heated because of the proliferation of internet content:

  • Should you put pineapple on pizza?
  • Is the dress blue or gold?
  • If a dog wore pants, would they only be on its hind legs or all four?
  • Is cereal a soup, and are hotdogs sandwiches?

This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. What are your favorite silly debates that became memes because of the internet? Let us know.

How to Pronounce GIF and Other Questions Answered

The strangeness and nostalgia of the internet knows no bounds. Sometimes, unpacking lore feels like engaging in an intense research project, but there are answers to almost everything. 

Learn how to read and pronounce crazy internet languages and files while going on an international scavenger hunt for the world’s top cipher experts. In a decade, there will be even more bizarre internet questions and mysteries, and it’s impossible to know what they will be about.