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The Internet is flooded with images as preferred means of representing information to website visitors or e-bulletin subscribers. The images are made available on the web in the form of specific file formats that allow for their main properties such as color, shade, saturation, etc. to be preserved in the best possible way. From the three major image file format types ruling the web today, .GIF is the oldest and the most suitable one for simpler images.

GIF - The Graphics Interchange Format

GIF was the first image format introduced for the needs of the World Wide Web back in 1987. Standing for Graphics Interchange Format, it represents a bitmap (graphics) file format, which is based on the 2D raster data type and which supports a wide range of resolutions. It also allows for efficient data compression, which helps for the image quality to be preserved after decreasing the file size.

GIF Example

The GIF file format supports the 8-bit color graphics method of storing image information, where each pixel is represented by an 8-bit byte. This way, GIF makes it possible for a single image to refer to a palette of 256 different colors within the 24-bit RGB color space at any time. However, with the advance of the graphics technologies, image formats such as .jpg and .png were introduced to offer greater color capabilities. With the higher standards in the reproduction of color established by those new formats, today .GIF is used mainly for storing plain images such as graphics or logos featuring solid areas of uniform color and well-defined edges.

GIF animated images

A very useful advantage of the .GIF format over the newer ones is the support for animations. One of the versions .GIF is offered in - GIF 87a, allows for a short sequence of images to be stored within a single file, which brings on the animation effect on the computer screen. The other basic format version, GIF89a, supports interlaced GIF, which refers to images with blurred outlines that are slowly resolving on the user's screen.

GIF - usage over the internet

Due to the already mentioned color limitation typical of GIF, it is not among the commonly used digital photography formats such as JPEG, RAW, TIFF. However, you can use its lossless compression advantages for storing low-color data for games or for low-resolution film clips. The GIF image is recommended for compressing graphics with few solid-color areas. It is also applicable for files already reduced to a 256-color mode. Please check the video below to see how the GIF compression can produce a very small web-ready file for your website with NTC Hosting.

How to compress images in the GIF image format (video)

Unfortunately, as we already mentioned, the GIF format is not suitable for photographic images, or vector images with gradient backgrounds. To see how to optimize such images for your website, please check the video tutorial in the JPEG article in our Encyclopedia.

Another main reason for the GIF image file format to be less used today is the Unisys patented data compression algorithm called LZW it is based on. The proprietary nature of GIF requires that it be distributed through image-handling software only under strict licensing conditions. Happily, this restriction does not prevent users from freely working with GIF files on the Internet through Unisys-accredited software.