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Friday the GIF patent will expire!

     
10:00 am on Jun 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Some 18 months ago, the thread June 20, 2003 GIF Patent Expiration Day! [webmasterworld.com] was started. Well, that is Friday.

Some history.
LZW (Lempel Ziv Welch) algorithm is used to compress images in GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) files. Unisys Corporation patented this algorithm on 20th June 1983 and it expires after 20 years (countdown can be seen here [wingimp.org]). In the early days of Internet this format released by CompuServe in 1987 became popular to store images. But Unisys decided in December 1994 that anyone who used the format needed a license. Big confusion and a lot of websites removed GIF files or changed them from GIF to JPEG.

So in a few days you can put back the old GIF files without paying for the license.

10:06 am on June 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Good job I'm leaving Unisys next week then huh? ;)

Thanks for that snippet Takagi. I bet no-one at work will know that. A chance for me to highlight the knowledge they're losing ;)

2odd...

7:55 pm on June 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hopefully the programs that pay the license like Photoshop will drop their price. Ya right. ;)

Xoc

4:38 am on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Be warned that it only expires in the United States. In most of the rest of the world, it is in effect for about another year.

Still, it's reason to celebrate! Software patents are the stupidest thing ever done in U.S. intellectual property law, narrowly beating out the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act. Having a major one like this expire is good news.

1:55 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Who cares. When this hub-bub started I looked for alternatives and found PNG images far superior in all practical aspects and never used another GIF again. Animated GIFs look like garbage and there are far better alternative animation standards out there, so GIFs have really become irrelevant.
2:16 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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;)

They say that patents won't pay the rent,
Before it's earned, our gif's have all been spent.
I guess that's so, we don't have a pot,
But photoshop at least won't cost alot.

3:06 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Animated GIFs look like garbage and there are far better alternative animation standards out there, so GIFs have really become irrelevant.

Except they haven't become irrelevent at all. They're undoubtedly the most used image format on the internet, with jpg close behind (for photos, which are less numerous than navigation and background images).
The PNG format may well be consigned to perform the same duties as gifs for quite some time, now that Microsoft has no intention of updating IE.
4:51 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I believe PHP has functions built in to create PNGs e.g. for making charts on the fly. Does this mean future versions of PHP could have a GIF editing facility? (if someone writes one).

I prefer PNG but GIF is mightily popular.

4:58 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Animated GIFs look like garbage and there are far better alternative animation standards out there, so GIFs have really become irrelevant

The continued widespread use of both static and animated GIFs would beg to differ. For cross browser compliance in terms of animation, the only real options are animated GIFs or Flash.

As for poor quality animated GIFs, there will always be a trade off between quality and size - it's the nature of the beast.

R.

7:24 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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As for PHP you can get access to GIFs you need to go to the PHP pear site under the Image section. There is an extension for ImageMagick. It supports GIFs and it works great.

daisho.

9:58 pm on June 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Could one create a transparent png
or jpg
if so please point to a tutorial

Thank you
Regards

2:37 am on June 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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henry0

-->Could one create a transparent png or jpg

You should be able to create a trans png. I don't believe that you can create a trans jpeg though.

Using Photoshop 7
Use the File-->Save For The Web menu option.
Select PNG from the settings menu.
Check transparency.
Save.

That'll doer

3:34 am on June 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I also switched to png's and find them to be superior on all counts.

Apparently there is some incompatibility that comes up between Netscrape browsers and Microsoft IIS servers, but that's a small price to pay for a better image quality : file size ratio. (I give width/height and alt text all my images, so if a few don't get served, I really don't care.)

Although . . . I'd love to use mng's but gif's are still the best for small animations. If the animation is minor enough, they even beat using quicktime or something like that. If at least one other browser besides Mozilla picked up mng's (like Opera, maybe), I might start putting them on my site along with little ditties about why my visitors should stop using IE.

Heh heh. In a few years maybe even the mighty MicroSoft might start supporting them . . . There's no motivator like being behind on "cool" techniques. Speaking of which, whatever happened to those text focus and shadow things in CSS1? I want them, damnit!

11:17 am on June 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Easy_coder
Thank you
Png transparency works even better than Gif
just experimented with a few.
12:02 pm on June 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Png transparency works even better than Gif

Yup - PNG has 256 levels of transparency instead of just On or Off.

but before you get too excited - IE doesn't support this - it just draws the transparency as on or off. Its been like that for years despite all the other browsers handling them properly. And Microsoft recently said that they couldn't comment on whether IE would ever get transparent PNGs right.

3:02 pm on June 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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HMMMM Just killed an otherwise pretty good weekend :)
4:13 am on June 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The MicroCruft motto: Just good enough, and hire slick marketers.
1:00 pm on June 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Grahamsteward
thanks; great article and great code
I am not a JS person, more of a PHP however it makes sense
but I miss the link in between what's happening after browser detection
and the next step concept
how does it work
does it it imply creating a bunch of includes with some form of ID that are picked up and included upon browser type detection?
I would like undrstanding the rest of the concept

regards

Henry

1:06 pm on June 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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is anyone here going to save a lot of money as a result of this?
8:08 pm on June 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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SlowMove, more important than saving money is that open source software will now be able to use the format (or more openly when all international patents expire).

kapow, PHP GD (Graphics library) 1.x had gif support, but they removed it in version 1.6+ (i think). Chances are they will put it back in when all international patents for LZW expire. Since there is demand for it and the code is already written.

2:33 am on June 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Since Mozilla's MNG support was mentioned, I thought I'd point out that mozilla.org recently dropped MNG support from the code. The MNG code was larger than all the others combined and was about to lose its maintainer, and there's been an aggressive push against "bloat" recently.
2:53 pm on June 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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PNG also supports alpha channels which is just far and beyond anything GIF can do. Regardless of how many people still use them, they are an antiquated format made irrelevant by newer and on all accounts better standards and formats.

I suppose, if you need to have a dancing hampster or a rotating email icon on your site, then GIFs are just the thing.

7:43 pm on June 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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gmiller wrote:
Since Mozilla's MNG support was mentioned, I thought I'd point out that mozilla.org recently dropped MNG support from the code. The MNG code was larger than all the others combined and was about to lose its maintainer, and there's been an aggressive push against "bloat" recently.

Darn! But MNG support is kind of useless, since nobody uses it. It's too bad, though . . . <dashes hifalutin plans>

TheRealTerry:
Dancing hamsters and rotating email icons (ugh) have their place, hopefully on websites far, far from my own. Let's see, so far the only place I've used animated gif's was on one page where I was purposely being silly. (I embedded sound on that page too -- yes! how 1995.) But the coolest use of animated gif's I ever saw was in 1997 on an MIT page. They took digital camera quicktime movies of MBTA buses doing various maneuvers, and created animated gif "previews" of the essentials. It was useful AND cool. I've seen, though very rarely, the same sort of application here and there on the web (with a variety of subject matter). The idea is a low-bandwith, no-special-plugin preview/clip of a moving sequence. It's actually the only place I find animated gifs to be cool rather than annoying.

It's just too bad that MNG seems to be going nowhere, because PNG is a much better format than GIF.

<edit>rewrote a no-coffee-today unintelligible sentence</edit>

11:06 pm on June 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Funny thing is that IE5/Mac has PNG Alpha support :)
12:16 am on June 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Yup IE5/mac had support for quite a few things that IE/Win does not.
I guess Microsoft didn't want to risk having a browser that was actually useful - so they killed it. :(
See Eric Meyers [meyerweb.com] recent epitaph to IE/Mac for more info (his blog of 14/6/03).
2:54 pm on June 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Pete_Dizzle,

The PHP group has announced that they will re-introduce GIF support in the future releases: [zend.com...]

Excellent news obviously! :)

5:22 pm on June 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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is anyone here going to save a lot of money as a result of this?

Well, I seem to have missed Adobe's announcement of the big price drop on their software, as a result of not having to pay GIF licensing anymore... *sigh* ;)

4:11 am on June 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I tried hard to ban most GIFs from my website. All my procedures are by now geared towards PNG. The primary reason for this was the patent issue. It became second nature of me to convert a GIF to PNG and delete it afterwards. Just as it became second nature to use Linux instead of Windows, free vs. proprietary software. You don't thing I am going to put all this upside-down and go back 10 years, just because a softwate patent expired, do you?

GIFs and Windows and Photoshop have had their chance. They misused it - and lost. We now have PNGs, Linux and GIMP. For me, for ever.

Amen.

5:42 am on June 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Doesn't this all fall under "so what". I mean who here (on this thread) has lost green dollars because of the .gif patent issues? I haven't lost a penny, I continue to sell products on my website which uses many .gifs. I've never been asked for any royalty payments nor would I consider making any switch in image types.

I suppose you can state that you lost money if you wasted time converting all of your images from .gif to something else. But why bother going through the process if you paid Adobe or whoever for software licensing? The software company is responsibe for the royalty fee. As web developers we don't really create .gifs, we use licensed software that creates .gifs. Aren't those the companies that are responsible for any royalty issues?

easy coder

5:54 am on June 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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As web developers we don't really create .gifs, we use licensed software that creates .gifs. Aren't those the companies that are responsible for any royalty issues?

Not if you want to make images on the fly, like drawing a chart with the latest financial information.

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