Blog / Foundations, Formats


Peter Krogh
Tue Jun 23 2020

This week, we’re going to dive into some specifics of image formats. In each post, I’ll give an overview of a format structure and its capabilities. This will be followed by examples of good uses of the format. We will start with the most basic image format, GIF, and move to more complex ones.

The Compuserve GIF is one of the oldest image formats. As a still image format, it’s largely obsolete. It uses an indexed color model that does not reproduce photographic color accurately. And it does not support robust metadata embedding. For many years, it was the subject of patent dispute which made developers wary of including it. But it does do one thing well and continues to be wildly popular for that function.

GIF supports the inclusion of multiple images in the file which can be used to create animations or short videos. Due to the small file size, variable frame rate, and widespread support, GIFs have become an extremely popular format for moving images. In particular, GIFs are often used in social media memes. A quick web search will find many sites offering pirated snippets from movies and video that can be used to communicate some comment or emotion.

If you have still image GIF files you want to preserve, you will probably want to convert them to a more modern format. Full color photos are better saved as JPEGs; screenshots, drawings, or images with a lot of text are better saved as PNG.

Best use for GIF

There really is only one good use of GIF and that is as a low-quality, low-bandwidth way to send a short moving image. That said, the use of GIFs in visual communication is one of the most widely adopted forms of visual speech in the mobile era. GIFs, particularly those with popular culture references, are an excellent example of connotative communication. By referencing a television or movie plot, a GIF comment can draw a parallel to a complex story line. It can communicate character, plot, situation, emotion and more.


GIF - Graphic Image Format - It’s a hard g.

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