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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.
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.
Animated GIFs look like garbage and there are far better alternative animation standards out there, so GIFs have really become irrelevant.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I suppose, if you need to have a dancing hampster or a rotating email icon on your site, then GIFs are just the thing.
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>
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>
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.
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?