Cover image for post Welcome back, GIF!

Welcome back, GIF!

Only a couple of days are left until the patent on the, mostly used in GIF and TIF images, LZW compression algorithm runs out. The patent, hold by Unisys has already expired in the USA last year. Today it expires in Europe, too, and Canada (as the last state worldwide) will follow on July the 7th.

GIF support has been disabled some years ago in most of the open source software and so in PHP, since Unisys made demands on high license fees for their patent on the optimized LZW algorithm. Only some open source products had GIF support, but mostly with any kind of compression, which made the file format in some way inattractive. PNG (Portable Network Graphics) should have become the successor of GIF in those times, but has never really managed to become equally popular.

Now, that the LZW patent has nearly expired all over the world, GIF support may return into open source (and also closed) software without license fees, which will give the old format (which was introduced by Compuserve in 1987) a come-back. And this, although PNG has much more features (like gradient transparency).

Rumors are spreading, that support for GIF creation will return into PHP's bundled GD library again for the release 4.3.8, since this is an old, deactivated, features and not a new one, which would fall under the "feature freeze" for PHP 4. Hopefully it will be part of the next PHP5 release.

So: Welcome back, GIF!


GIF sucks anyway... 256 colours, only black/white transparency....

Derick Rethans at 2004-06-18

s/Welcome back/Go tO Hell/

better said :)


-- at 2004-06-18

As I stated, I like PNG more, too. But nevertheless, supporting more formats === nicer product. ;)

Even if GIF sucks... what it does...

Toby at 2004-06-18

GIF is a very old format and it was made for the computers at that time. Now, GIF sucks indeed and PNG does not have a real chance untill Microsoft will accept it in it's bloody "browser", Internet Exploder.

Emil Tamas at 2004-06-18

Re-Enabling GIF just encourages the users to further use GIF instead of the much better successor PNG.

So maybe for 4.3.7 this would be nice, but I think we will never get rid of GIF if we continue to "support" its use.

But as Emil says: It's all MSIE's fault; even though PNG transparency can be enforced with CSS-markup...

Garvin at 2004-06-18

The problem is : WHY we should use a non standard, MS proprietary method to make png transparent ? And how about the animated PNG's (MNG)? Sometimes I really think that 90% of the planet is dumb.

Emil Tamas at 2004-06-18

No, the problem is microsoft who has no interest in becoming standards compliant. If they become standards compliant it'll make life easier for web developers. Web applications don't require fat-clients. Microsoft's core business is fat-clients. The easier they make building web applications the more they eat away at their own core revenue stream. As Joel Spolsky said, DHTML is the new Windows API.

derek at 2004-06-21

PNGs aren't supported in all mobile phone browsers while GIFs are. Happy chappy me.

Rich at 2004-07-05

wtf ? it redirects to

Emil Tamas at 2004-07-31