Skip to main content


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>What does GIF mean ?

GIF is the abbreviation for Graphics Interchange Format. The procedure allows a lossless reduction of images. In addition, several individual images can be stored within one GIF. Suitable programs such as web browsers play these short clips. This possibility still contributes significantly to the spread of the format today.

History of the image format

The process was developed by IT specialist Steve Wilhite back in the 1980s. From 1987, the US online service CompuServe introduced the standard to replace the black and white RLE as the colour format. Because of the strong compression rates, GIFs were very popular in the coming years. They consumed less storage space than competing formats such as PCX.

Because the image format allowed transparent layers and animation, it remained successful even with the advent of the popular JPG and PNG formats. Surprisingly, its popularity increased again in the 2010s, partly due to systems like tumblr or forums like 4chan. In the meantime, animated clips are part of everyday life for many people, who use them in chats, for example.

The cultural significance of the format is enormous. Therefore, “GIF” has been recognized as a word in the English language. The Oxford University Press, meanwhile, judged that the format had “evolved into a tool” for “journalism and research”.

Features of the format

GIF s use a color palette to store color information. This table consists of up to 256 different entries, with several million color values to choose from. The format displays simple graphics and drawings without optical reduction. More complex photographs are significantly reduced by the limitation. Especially with large images, gradations and disturbances occur and are visible.

The maximum size of such an image file is basically limited to 65,635 by 65,535 pixels, which is sufficient for displaying smaller graphics. This is where the transparency feature of the format is beneficial. For example, users can use rectangular GIFs with a round content to make the respective background color appear when integrated. However, no partial transparency is possible as with the competing PNG format.

The small files are popular mainly because of their animation function. When integrated on an Internet page, the browser plays the GIF, which consists of several individual images. Thus even the transmission of short clips is possible. People use such animations in social networks, in forums or in messenger services, for example.

Comparison with modern standards

The image format competes with other standards. For example, the patent-free PNG format was developed to create a new image standard for single images. In general, this PNG format is easier to use because it is much more mature with 64-bit color depth, greater compression, and more color options. Therefore, the PNG image replaced the outdated GIF standard in many areas.

Only with the animations this procedure weakens. However, since the introduction of HTML5, users can integrate various video files such as WebM or H.264 directly into Internet pages. The advantage is the improved quality. Such animations require less storage space compared to a GIF, whereby animated elements can also be integrated, which ensure better usability.

Although the image standard is now technically obsolete, it remains very popular. This is largely due to the animations, which remain a popular means of communication among users. Because these clips work across all browsers without the need for a codec or plug-in, the GIFs will continue to find widespread use in the near future.

The gif is hopelessly outdated – and yet it has survived, as Internet folklore and emotional stenography.
Tilman Baumgärtel

Do you have any more questions?

Please contact us