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Browser bugs that render "bgcolor" differently from GIF indexed color have eaten away 4 previously safe colors. But the big deal is that, outside of black and white, 16-bit color does not exactly share any colors at all with either 8-bit color or 24-bit color.
They come up with 22 REALLY web-safe colors at present, and no easy answers!
I've been working on a site where the art department is very fond of gradients and matching colors in images to bgcolor. In 16 bit, the site looks like a grade school project!
Of course, designing in 16-bit color can throw a real zinger at the other 40%. This includes the people who recently shelled out the bucks for updated equipment (and that is often the people who hire me!)
This color issue is a big, largely unexamined pandora's box, as I see it. As this topic started out discussing, the "web safe" pallette isn't all that safe. And yet, clients can be looking for a very sophisticated appearance on their site -- the full 24 bit color palette.
As bigger screen resolutions come onto the market, are we looking at a continuation of 16 bit color as the de facto standard for years into the future? My card won't support 24 bit color beyond the 1024x768 setting. Is this a common cutoff, or are most people able to get 24 bit color at 1200 or even 1600 res?
This ballpark was recently corroborated by a friend of mine who bought a study from The Standard at the end of last year. He reports they said 52% use 16 bit color.
I made what I now consider a mistake when I bought my current monitor -- I sprang for a relatively big-bucks graphics design monitor. For web-work, I now think that a consumer level, nearly generic, monitor is the better choice -- and it costs less!