The GIF format is a graphic format that is similar to the JPG file format. The abbreviation GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format and also represents the file extension of the image files. In contrast to JPG, GIF files can be animated, with the animation always repeating itself after a few seconds.
The format was developed by the American programmer Steve Wilhite. In 1987 he worked for the Internet provider CompuServe and was supposed to create a successor to the RLE format, which could only display black and white images. The GIF format quickly became popular because of its effective compression and was superior to all other graphic formats. Because the files represent animations very well, they survived the triumph of the Internet. The display options for colors and images have been supplemented by another version called GIF89a. The reprogramming gave the color palette more transparency. This allows colors to be displayed more differentiated.
The files were originally used primarily for banners. After that, they were replaced by other formats of image and animation reproduction. However, they have been appearing more and more in social networks in recent years. GIF files can be easily created in Photoshop, which allows the animated images created to be more widely distributed. GIF animations are common on online services such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
Originally, GIF and other legacy image formats like BMP were the first compressed formats supported by browsers. They became increasingly uninteresting as other file formats with even more compression emerged. These could reproduce significantly more than 256 colors (the limit for GIF file formats). GIF files only exist today because of their many animation options.
GIF files are mostly used in networks, messengers and internet chats. The graphics have the task of representing a feeling or, for example, repeating a joke. It can be single images, short film sequences or excerpts from a TV series or a video game. Otherwise, GIFs are small images or animated smileys. They are used to express emotions. It is not necessary to formulate a text for this. Images or animations are perceived more quickly by the recipient than fully formulated texts.
However, WhatsApp smileys are not GIF files, but icons that are used visually for very specific text characters. Animated smileys must be linked from the web or downloaded from an app or software.
Images and animations can also be displayed using PNG. An extension of PNG are Animated Portable Network Graphics (German: move portable network graphics), APNG for short. Like a GIF, they can store image representations and animations in a file format.
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