The New Republic is explaining GIFs to, sweetly, "the uninitiated":
There’s a depth that can’t be had from traditional photographs; it feels both familiar and different. The eye stares at it, trying to make sense of what’s going on—how could there be depth in a two-dimensional image? And then the GIF just keeps going and going and going, drawing the onlooker away from whatever else awaits in that Twitter stream and the twenty other tabs beside it. “You have to watch it play out. When it plays out you can watch it again. It takes care of that click for you,” Repeat says. GIFs, unlike much of the rest of the visual Web, are opt-out, not opt-in.
Although the piece is frequently edifying, if you are seeking to explain GIFs to your frozen caveman lawyer, just send them to When in Academia and allow the art form to justify its own existence through the art of being.
(Double points if you can express your general feelings about GIFs through the use of GIFs in the comments.)