Graphics Interchange Format

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What Does Graphics Interchange Format Mean?

The graphics interchange format (GIF) is a type of bitmap image format introduced by CompuServe back in 1987 that has since gained wide support and use on the World Wide Web. The format supports up to 8 bits per pixel, allowing an image to have access to a 255-color palette. The most distinctive feature of GIF is its support for animation, with each frame being allowed to use a separate palette.

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Techopedia Explains Graphics Interchange Format

The graphics interchange format became popular because of its use of the LZW (Lempel-Ziv-Welch) compression method, which reduces the file size without reducing or degrading the quality of the image. This compression method allows for larger images to be downloaded by slow modems in a relatively short time. This method is also more efficient than the older run-length compression method that other image formats like PCX used. Even with its merits, GIF is not suitable for reproducing high-quality color photographs because of the limitations of its color palette. It is better suited to other types of graphics like logos, which usually have a lot of solid areas of color.

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.