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What Is The Future of PNG? 609

miladus writes "The GIF patent (held by Unisys) will expire on June 20. C|Net wonders whether that will also mean that PNG "will lose its original reason for being". Remember Burn All GIFs? " My hope would be that at this point PNG can stand on its own technical merits, rather then on ideological merits.
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What Is The Future of PNG?

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  • PNGs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 637314 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:09AM (#6148777) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately even half my coworkers don't know what a PNG is. I try to send them a UML diagram made from DIA and they demand a readable format :(
    • Re:PNGs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:43AM (#6149005)
      Out of interest, what the hell sort of software are your idiot coworkers using if they can't load a simple PNG? I can't understand this; every time someone mentions PNG, people always complain that they nobody has heard of it and no application can handle it. What? I use PNG for everything I do. I've never had a problem saving or loading it, unless for some bizare reason I'm using ancient Windows applications that can only handle BMP, TIFF and PCX of all things. I really don't get it!
    • Re:PNGs (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hugonz ( 20064 )
      Tell them to open it in MSN Explorer =)
  • not yet... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 5prite ( 655586 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:09AM (#6148778)
    until GIF gives us more than Alpha channel with more than 1 bit :)...
    • by gylle ( 531234 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:36AM (#6148963)
      One bit, that ought to be enough for anybody... :-)
    • Re:not yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by archen ( 447353 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:00AM (#6149155)
      That's only sort of correct. A gif can ONLY do transparency. A PNG allows up to 254 levels of partial transparency per channel, and can have multiple channels.

      You want to know what REALLY held PNG back? It was Internet Explorer that STILL doesn't do the transparency right. More eople would start using the format right now if the implementation could do what the spec specifies. You see people all the time finding clever ways to make an image look like it blends into the background - which can be a pain in the ass to line up correctly. Imagine if the images could actually do partial transparency... that would make things easier woudn't it? Oh well, it's still a good lossless algorithm to cart images around with - I use it all the time for personal use and on my website.
      • Re:not yet... (Score:5, Informative)

        by DragonMagic ( 170846 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:33AM (#6149421) Homepage
        IE 6, at least on NT-based systems, even screws up the palettes on PNGs.

        I can save a graphic using RGB 102,0,0 and I would have to change it to RGB 115,0,0 or something similar to match the background color attribute of the HTML page.

        IE is horrendous on PNG graphics, still to this day.
        • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:19AM (#6149835) Homepage Journal

          What you're seeing is probably gamma correction. Try saving the PNG image without a gamma chunk (GIMP's Save As... dialog can do this), and your image's #660000 will match your page's #660000.

          If it's not gamma, then it's probably differences in dithering. In high-color mode, some web browsers use different dithering algorithms on flat rectangles (e.g. backgrounds) vs. images. If this is your problem, the problem should show up with GIF images as well. Here, the best policy is to use a binary-transparent PNG, masking out what touches the edges and matches the background. (IE supports binary transparency in indexed images, just not alpha.)

      • Re:not yet... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mwood ( 25379 )
        [partial transparency]

        I'm still trying to figure out why this is considered so important. Pretty, or interesting, yes, but *important*?
  • here's hoping. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by porter235 ( 413926 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:09AM (#6148781)
    I am dying for full PNG support in all major browsers... the 256 levels of transparency alone make it worth while!
    • Re:here's hoping. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by questamor ( 653018 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:14AM (#6148813)
      Same here, and it's pretty close. Most browsers support it in some fashion, and it IS technically superior to GIF format images.

      It's a little like MP3 vs OGG, except PNG is far closer to acceptance in general applications than OGG is for music.

      Curiously, does IE support more than one alpha channel with PNG? last I looked it didn't, but that was a long long time ago; most everything else did at the time
  • Sure (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:10AM (#6148782)
    Because everyone wants 256 color GIFs.

    PNG does everything GIF does, only a million times better.
  • by jellybear ( 96058 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:10AM (#6148783)
    to cd
  • Who wants to buy me a nice shiny patent?

    I wonder, will this show up on eBay like so many other patents? []
  • Let's face it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nutznboltz ( 473437 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:10AM (#6148785) Homepage Journal
    You can't get rid of a graphics file format once it's out there.
  • by flend ( 9133 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:11AM (#6148787) Homepage
    GIFs are limited to 8-bit colour depth, no alpha layer etc. etc. PNG is a standardised, open format with support for lossless encoding of full colour graphics with transparencies.

    Saying that GIF becoming patent unencumbered is going to reduce use of PNG is like implying that when the original patents ran out on horses & carriages people gave up their cars and reverted. Ain't gonna happen :)
    • by Horny Smurf ( 590916 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:23AM (#6149344) Journal
      Slashdot uses gifs. In fact, it seems more likely for the janitors to spell-check than it does for them to convert to png.

      • Slashdot's enough of a mainstream site that going over to PNG would do a lot to increase the visibility and popularity of the format. There can't be more than a couple of dozen images to convert. At worst, even with major fiddling that's about 2 hours work. At best it's a batch job for XV or Gimp...
    • by scrawny ( 75842 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:23AM (#6149893)
      The mistaken belief that GIF has a limit of 256 colors probably comes from the way GIF was first used when it came out. In the late 1980's, PC video cards generally supported no more than 256 colors. Image exchanges were becoming popular among BBS systems and the Internet and viewer programs were quickly produced. No one tried or needed to generate images with more than 256 colors since they could not be viewed on anything less than high priced graphics workstations. Programs that converted images to GIF worked up a number of methods to reduce the number of colors to 256 or fewer. Some actually did a very good job. GIF files were constructed with just a single image block, even though the GIF standard placed no limit on the number of blocks. Since there was no use for more than 256 colors, there was no use for more than one image block. This practice became effectively ingrained into the computer culture and eventually everyone "knew" that GIF supported no more than 256 colors. The fact is, the programs that generated GIF files supported no more than one image block, and thus didn't have a means to deal with more than 256 colors. The top image shows that a GIF file really can have more than 256 colors.

      this info and more (including full color GIF) from here [].
      • by boa13 ( 548222 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @07:00PM (#6156169) Homepage Journal
        The mistaken belief that GIF has a limit of 256 colors probably comes from the way GIF was first used when it came out.

        Err, I would say this belief comes from someplace else, like... the GIF specification. GIF has been designed for 256 colors, as the Global Color Table and Local Color Table (which are made a of power-of-two number of entries limited to 256) clearly show.

        The site you mention is the homepage for a hack. Yes, a clever dude can create GIFs that look like they have more than 256 colors... but the fact is, such a GIF is made of many 256-colors images. Totally inefficient, compared to PNG, as the author of the hack admits, at the bottom of his page.

        That said, there's another well-known GIF hack, which also uses several images per GIF: animated GIF. Let's not forget that, as the spec says, The Graphics Interchange Format is not intended as a platform for animation, even though it can be done in a limited way.

        So, let's hope the nightmare doesn't come true, and that horrible multi-image true-color true-Bad GIFs begin to be popular.

        PNG is better than GIF in every technical aspect.

        GIF Spec: here []
  • PNG is good (Score:4, Informative)

    by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:11AM (#6148792) Homepage
    I don't know why more people don't use PNG. It's a great format. For photorealistic images JPG is best, but for logos or other types of graphics and drawings, PNG is great. I hope that we start seeing widespread use of vector-based graphics in the near future, though.
    • Re:PNG is good (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tanveer1979 ( 530624 )
      GIF's were already in use from a long time. Even the patents didn't scare ppl because unisys hasnt been relentless in pursuing them.

      So people kept on using GIF's. And very few people used PNG. There is a popular saying "Its not what its worth, its how it is marketed"

    • Re:PNG is good (Score:3, Informative)

      by cybermace5 ( 446439 )
      JPG is great as long as it's a visibly separate page element, and you don't use them for anything requiring color matching. A lossless format is absolutely required when you need the image to blend with text or page backgrounds. JPEG compression usually skews the color one way or another, and not all rendering engines do it the same way.

      That said, it's much easier to use contrasting colors for page elements and backgrounds. PNG transparency would be great for blending in as long as you don't need a razor s
  • by vasqzr ( 619165 ) <> on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:12AM (#6148795)

    Just because PNG is 'better' than GIF, doesn't mean it'll win.

    GIF has such a huge head start...
  • by Lysander Luddite ( 64349 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:13AM (#6148799)
    Until IE fully supports the format, it might as well be dead. Nobody who wants the Alpha Channel support can use it in IE6 so it pretty much just sits there, an unused option.

    Since IE apparently won't be getting an update until the next version of Windows, I don't see much changing.

    It also doesn't help that creating PNGs with Alpha Channels isn't as easy as it can be in some apps.
  • by Kegetys ( 659066 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:14AM (#6148811) Homepage
    Only thing GIF has what PNG does not is animation support... PNG wins in everything else. And most of the GIF animations I have seen do nothing else than annoy so i'm not sure if the lack of it in PNG is a good or bad thing after all.
  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:14AM (#6148812) Homepage
    PNG is not just an alternative to GIF. PNG has things like Alpha Blending, Gamma Correction and Huge color depth (up to 48 bits, I believe).

    So you can really do a lot of cool things with PNG that you can't do with GIF's.

    The problem is that without browser support this is like having a CD library in the 70s... Useless. And as long as browsers don't handle PNG's properly it's also chicken & egg problem.

    I hate to say it, but we're pretty much at Microsoft's mercy with mainstream PNG usage.
  • Patented or not, GIF is an antiquated compression algorithm which performs quite poorly compared to PNG. There is descent browser support for PNG, and it can also do some nifty things which GIF cannot -- most importantly alpha transparency as opposed to binary transparency.

    It seems most people just don't care enough to use PNG though, so I wouldn't expect it to take over the net very soon.
  • by @madeus ( 24818 ) <> on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:15AM (#6148820)
    At the weekend I removed all the GIF's from my project and replaced them with PNG's, because I'd had a submission (understadably) rejected to because of this issue.

    I'd only been using GIF's because my project outputs web pages and uses transparent images to render a nice customisable user interface (e.g. tabs) in a way that can only be achived with transparent images - and realistically most people use IE and it has problems with PNG transparency that would require me to use lots of VB scripting in IE just to get IE to behave in the manner I wanted.

    Does this mean free GNU projects will be able to use GIF's, or are there still other parent related issues with GIF images?
  • by Jasin Natael ( 14968 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:16AM (#6148827)
    My hope would be that at this point PNG can stand on its own technical merits, rather then on ideological merits.

    It certainly does for me. PNG tends to display colors more accurately than GIF, has cleaner dithering, and has much better transparency than GIF. It also generates smaller files for complex/large images. But, Internet Explorer once again holds us back. IE doesn't do transparency AT ALL for PNG images. It doesn't even use the page color, or white, just a flat 50% gray. Once IE supports PNG properly, a lot more web developers will feel comfortable using it. Curse you and your "standards", Microsoft.

    Jasin Natael
    • by Etyenne ( 4915 )

      IE doesn't do transparency AT ALL for PNG images.

      No. It understand full-transparency in indexed mode (this is not using the alpha channel). This functionnally the equivalent of GIF. IE throw away the alpha channel entirely, but one of the color in indexed mode can be defined as transparent.

      In The Gimp, right-click, "Image", "Mode", "Indexed ..." get you the menu to make your image indexed.

      But it is true that IE hold us back. Full alpha channel support would do a lot for Web site aesthetic.

  • PNG will stick (Score:4, Informative)

    by sklib ( 26440 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:16AM (#6148828)
    IIRC, GIF really specialized in 256-color paletted images, and any extensions to that along the lines of full 32-bit color were kind of a hack, and were never very popular. PNG, on the other hand, is a great compressed lossless format that seems to cleanly support 4 channels. I've used it plenty when storing graphics for programming purposes, and have never had any kind of problems.

    It seems that the only reason GIF was around in the first place is because computers were slow, and then later (instead of lossy jpegs) for displaying little images with text in them in web pages. Since PNG does that now and does it better, I think there's no reason to ever go back to GIF.

    Sure, the readers and writers might now be legally free or whatever, but anyone who really wanted to use GIFs has been able to do it anyway (it's not like all along Photoshop wasn't able to export, and Explorer and Netscape weren't able to view them), and there is support for better formats pretty much everywhere now, that I don't foresee any changes in the status quo regarding GIF use.
  • Animated PNG (Score:2, Interesting)

    by emo boy ( 586277 )
    What about the animation that gifs bring to the web? I know that no one was using the animated functionality of a gif back when the PNG specs were being drawn up but I think it's time to look back into it. It at least give users an alternative to Macromedia Flash especially whilst using GIMP.
    Long live open source
  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:22AM (#6148871) Homepage
    Unisys claim to have a whole host of patents around the world covering the LZW technology.

    You may wish to look at this thread [] on comp.compression

    Just as we in Europe are often affected by US patents, even thought he patent itself isn't valid here, now might be your turn to be affected by patents outside your jurisdiction.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:23AM (#6148873)
    I have an include file tricking the transparancy into working here [] , but this geezer has done it a more elegant way []...

    Until IE gets a major update it's the only way to ensure that your PNG stuff works cross-browser. And with PNG's superior colour depth and transpancy there really is no reason to NOT at least toy with using PNG's a little any more...
  • by jht ( 5006 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:26AM (#6148893) Homepage Journal
    GIF and JPG each do something quite well. GIF is well-suited for the rendering of static elements with a relatively small palette, like webpage design elements. It doesn't support photo-realistic images, but that's OK - a GIF can make a very small, efficient file that can load quickly. And it's been supported since the earliest days of the Internet.

    JPG compliments GIF by providing a way to display high-quality photo images, and you can control the size of the rendered file by deciding how much you're willing to discard. Again, it's supported by every editor and browser, and it's been around since the beginnning.

    PNG is a superior format to GIF from a technical perspective, and it's not encumbered by the LZW patent. However, from the perspective of most mainstream users, it doesn't solve a problem that actually affects them (they don't know or care about the Unisys patent issue), it isn't perfectly supported by all mainstream browsers and servers in use today, and it's a johnnie-come-lately to the standards wars.

    Like it or not (I think it kinda sucks), most web developers seem to do things one of three ways: if they need small static elements they use GIF, for photos they use JPG, and if they need fancy-schmancy stuff they use Flash. And nobody worries whether or not platforms other than Windows with the latest IE can render their site, anyway. So maybe PNG will slowly become more common - it is a better format for the most part than GIF is, and pretty much all current browsers and servers (going forward - not some of the older versions that are still in use) support it pretty well out of the box. Really, what matters most is the bottom line (especially once the LZW patent is dead) - can PNG produce a better browsing experience for a site's users? If it can, it'll get used. If not, then it's dead.
    • It's dead meat.

      One thing I hear in here this morning is that its unencumbered and lossless compression format. Yes the format will stick around just because somebody will use it for something. However, I don't need a lossless format that often (if ever) on the web. People aren't downloading your image and sending it to others and your probably not going any further then two-three generations when your working on your website. Finally, size matters ladies! I am not going to clutter up a webpage with a
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:27AM (#6148900)
    Not PNG.


  • by Vandil X ( 636030 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:28AM (#6148902)
    Back in the day, JPGs were known for better compression, but with graphical loss. GIFs were known for preserving appearance, but with less compression than JPG.

    Then PNG comes in...
    - Open Source/Open Standard: cool
    - Lots of options of graphic artists: cool
    - even less compression: suckage, but whatever, people who really care about their net experience these days have broadband

    PNG may be superior, but it suffers from being obscure and being too technically oriented. I remember when Animated GIFs were tough to create without a "wizard". I seriously doubt your average consumer will care about the added layers and alpha "stuff" that's supported by the PNG format.

    Kind of like how Firebird may be technically superior to, say, Internet Explorer, but very few people know of Firebird, and few among those who do know about it would know how to use all its features. IE just "works" for them.

    PNG rocks, but until the likes of many Photo CD "developing" companies and other consumer-oriented image business start using the PNG format, people will still only know a world of GIFs, JPGs, and BMPs.
  • by bahamat ( 187909 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:33AM (#6148942) Homepage
    is that PNG will never see large scale use until all of it's features are supported in IE. I would love to use PNG for everything, except that they look like hell in IE. And as much as I badger people about using Mozilla, they don't.

    GIF does have full support in IE, and nobody seems to know that the patent even exists. Even those that do rarely care enough to even tell one person.

    This is the truth and it sucks. PNG, better in every way, suffers for it.
  • Animated PNGs? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:44AM (#6149017) Homepage
    Does such a thing exist? Will it ever exist?

    The way I see it, if I have an image and it's only 8 bit I'll use a GIF, otherwise I'll use a JPG, unless it contains text that needs to be readable in which case I'll use PNG.

    Simple rule of thumb?
  • by FrostedWheat ( 172733 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:51AM (#6149075)
    What is the future of PNG?

  • by pomakis ( 323200 ) <> on Monday June 09, 2003 @08:59AM (#6149152) Homepage
    The GIF patent (held by Unisys) will expire on June 20.

    Does this mean we might actually see another release of xv []? John Bradley has been holding off on a new release for years because of the GIF patent issue. Ironically, perhaps the best feature that'll be in the new release will be built-in PNG support (as apposed to having to download a patch or a patched copy of xv to get this).

  • by Trolling4Dollars ( 627073 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:02AM (#6149181) Journal
    As far as I can tell, GIF still has that one leg up on PNG. I haven't seen any version of PNG that can do animations and that is supported within a browser. Ideally, I'd still like to see an open source alternative to Flash that would allow one to create animations with synchronized sound. Oh well... I'm part way through my C++ book now. :)
  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:04AM (#6149197)
    I wonder if Microsoft's halfhearted support of PNG is deliberate. To be honest, it probably is, in an attempt to undermine open standards.

    Ahem. Anyway, PNG is a format which would be superior to GIF in every aspect. Just a few problems...

    1) Photoshop's PNG support sucks. It is entirely due to Photoshop that we have this insipid misconception that PNG is larger than GIF; if Photoshop would only compress PNG's decently, people would realize that this is false. Because unfortunately, most people are too lazy to use an optimizer along the lines of pngcrush.

    2) IE/Windows' PNG support is awful. As I said, I believe that this is deliberate on Microsoft's part, given that they already have good PNG-handling code (in their AlphaImageLoader filter) and they simply refuse to use it as their default. Now, it is possible to use JavaScript -the scourge of the Net normally, but this is one of those points where it can be genuinely useful- to make IE apply the AlphaImageLoader filter to PNG images, but no one's managed to make a complete drop-in replacement that will apply to all PNG images im a page yet. It can be done, but it hasn't been done yet.

    3) MNG support is nonexistent. Even Mozilla, the only browser which ever supported MNG, has removed it. This is a great shame.

    Now, in the meantime, there actually is one use for images which PNG is ideally suited for, and where the transparency problems of IE/Win are not an issue: screenshots. The compression is good enough that particularly when dealing with computer-generated images, the file size isn't that much greater than JPEG, but there is no loss in image quality, which is especially important when grabbing screenshots of games or video. Screenshots are not transparent, as a rule, so IE/Windows has no problems. Unfortunately, it seems that this use of PNG has yet to be discovered by the mainstream.

    PNG may also be good for certain types of wallpapeers, such as most computer-generated graphics or hand-drawn animation. Colors in these generally aren't as complex as they are in photographs, and the lossless compression of PNG works well under those conditions. Combine this with the fact that JPEG (the current de facto standard for wallpapers) has an inexplicable and yet undeniable hatred for the color red, and you have something which can better preserve these types of images. Worth considering, anyway.
    • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:35AM (#6150065) Homepage Journal
      // The following is hereby placed in the public domain. The right to copy and modify is
      // irrevokably granted to all.
      // Copyright (c) Daniel Potter
      // In your onLoad event, call "msiePngHack()" to watch all your PNG images
      // be set to use transparency. (Note that your PNG files must end with
      // a ".png" extension and is case sensetive - this is because the MIME type
      // is not exposed to the JS code. If you have a file that does not end in
      // ".png" then add something like "?f=.png" to the end to fake out this
      // script - and certain versions of IE :) )

      var isIE = navigator.appName == "Microsoft Internet Explorer";
      // if really Opera, this is corrected later

      // Sets a PNG image browser-independently (use for roll over effects etc)
      function setPngImage(img, src) {
      if (isIE && isPng(src)) {
      // need to do PNG hack
      img.width = img.offsetWidth;
      img.height = img.offsetHeight;
      // correct this to point to a blank GIF file
      /* SLASHDOT ONLY: REMOVE THE SPACES IN THE STRINGS. These are intended to prevent "page widening" but screw up the code :) */
      img.src = " "; = "progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoade r(sizingMethod='scale')";
      img.filters(0).src = src;
      } else
      img.src = src;

      // checks if the image is a PNG - ends in ".png"
      function isPng(src) {
      return src.length > 4 && src.substring(src.length - 4) == ".png"

      function msiePngHack() {
      // just go through the images collection, and "set" the PNGs using the PNG hack
      // "setPngImage" method to make MSIE happy
      for (i = 0; i < document.images.length; i++) {
      var img = document.images[i];
      try {
      if (!(img.filters)) {
      isIE = false;
      } catch (ex) {
      isIE = false;
      setPngImage(img, img.src);
    • Drop-in PNG behavior (Score:3, Informative)

      by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 )

      Now, it is possible to use JavaScript -the scourge of the Net normally, but this is one of those points where it can be genuinely useful- to make IE apply the AlphaImageLoader filter to PNG images, but no one's managed to make a complete drop-in replacement that will apply to all PNG images im a page yet. It can be done, but it hasn't been done yet.

      Its been done: []

  • Slashdot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:16AM (#6149284)
    Maybe the answer to whether it will fail or not lies in possibly the largest geek site on the web?

    14:12:33 (30.08 KB/s) - `index.html' saved [39023]
    grep -i "\.png" index.html | wc -l
    grep -i "\.gif" index.html | wc -l

    Food for thought.

  • I didn't discover what PNG was until I discovered OSS. Prior to that I found GIF format files everywhere. I still do.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:29AM (#6149397) Journal

    PNG allows up to 16-bits per channel and has full alpha last time I checked. It can store just about anything, and it's non-lossy.

    OTOH, you've got the tools that are supposed to allow you to have only 2n image converters, but the interchange formats for that (PPM, PBM, PNM, others?) seem to always have some shortcoming, and they always have to introduce yet another interchange format! PNG does it all in one neat little compressed format.

    So forget about scrapping GIF in favor of PNG. Instead, scrap PPM, etc. in favor of PNG. If it doesn't support it already, PNG could be made to support arbitrary bit depth, and arbitrary channels (inverse hyperkinetic bump blending, or whatever you can imagine).

    For the web, in most cases, PNG's capabilities don't add much--unless you are doing something really flashy with your website, in which case you probably use Flash, in which case you have nothing meaningful to say so I ignore you anyway. :)

    At any rate, PNGs (at least the RGB channels) are properly supported by all the major browsers, so if something happens to compress better in PNG, or if you really need full color depth in a non-lossy image, why not use PNG?

    That about sums it up: GIF--color depth not important, crisp lines important, compression important. JPEG--color depth important, crisp lines not important, compression important. PNG--color depth and crisp lines both important, compression not as important (or the image just happens to compress well with PNG).

    In some ways, this is a variation on the "better, faster, cheaper" dilemma.

    Now, the scenario that favors PNG may be less common, but it's nice to know we can reach for it when we need it.

  • by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <> on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:30AM (#6149402)
    PNG never got a grip on the animation thing.

    If you wanted a moving image in a little loop, it was GIF everytime.

  • by dradler ( 627109 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:32AM (#6149419) Homepage
    Even if PNG was a lousy format, it's gotten enough use
    that it's here to stay. Fortunately, it's a pretty good

    What I wonder is if superior compression techniques, e.g.
    LOCO/JPEG-LS will be incorporated into PNG? I was one of
    the founders of PNG in 1995, but that was eight years of
    technology development ago. Has someone tested PNG
    against JPEG-LS in various real world applications?
  • by Asacarny ( 244586 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @09:39AM (#6149471)
    In other news, Mozilla dropped support for MNG/JNG (animated PNG/JPEG-like PNG) in its 1.5 branch. Mozilla 1.4 will support it, but unless someone steps up as a full time maintainer, 1.5 will not. Basically, the old maintainer felt that MNG/JNG support wasn't worthwhile, especially because its library took up as much space as the entire imglib -- roughly 240KB on Windows and 170KB on Linux. With some integration they were able to get it down to 135KB, but it stopped around there.

    To be honest, that *is* quite a lot of space for just one format decoder to take. The decoder's writers should get a pat on the back though, because this was still the first MNG/JNG decoder with full support for the spec. (For those who were wondering, JNG is a subformat of MNG and provides non-animated JPEG-compressed images with alpha transparency. Supporting it requires only a few KB extra if MNG is already supported)

    MNG/JNG was never used very much on the web, but neither was PNG before a few browsers started supporting it. Clearly if Mozilla drops support MNG/JNG will be dead in the water. In particular, the format provides 8-bit transparency with *animation*, which you would be hard pressed to find in any other open, web-optimized format.

    Many theme authors used MNG to produce animated icons that blended with the background (The Mozilla Firebird throbber used one, in fact.) Now they will have to jump through hoops to get this feature. Or they will have to emulate it using GIF's (blegh.)

    So far there have been a lot of complaints from the community about the removal of MNG/JNG, but in comparison, very little action. One person submitted an XPI (installer) to allow 1.5/nightlies users to regain MNG/JNG support, but obviously this is suboptimal -- for the format to gain popularity it's going to at least need to be in the default install! Interested persons should check out these bugs on Bugzilla:
    (#195280) Removal of MNG/JNG support []
    (#18574) restore support for MNG animation format and JNG image format []
  • by bushboy ( 112290 ) <> on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:07AM (#6149729) Homepage
    All rich media content developers have adopted PNG for may reasons.

    One of the better ones is alpha transparency with small file sizes. This is a godsend for developers wanting a seamless anti-aliasing against any other background colour for multi-media and web (except of course for good old microsoft, who STILL don't support PNG transparencey - wonder why ? ;))

    PNG is not going to go away any time soon as it is far more flexible than the GIF format.

    Applications like Macromedia Fireworks use PNG as it's default file extension, anabling it to store layers, image slice data, guidelines etc.
  • by ader ( 1402 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:17AM (#6149813) Homepage
    You mean they didn't lobby congress to extend patent terms by fifty years retroactively? Jeez, don't they know how to do business in the modern world?!

  • PNG-JPG (Score:3, Informative)

    by Some Bitch ( 645438 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @10:41AM (#6150132)

    I use PNG as my local format for most images simply because I can then fiddle with layers/text/blending/whatever at some time in the future if need be.

    I generally export them to JPG for web use though simply because a quality 80 JPG is STILL smaller than the original PNG by quite some way.

    Also means people can't nick my stuff and change the text (not easily) without asking me (in which case I'll happily email them the original PNGs).

  • by David Leppik ( 158017 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @11:11AM (#6150467) Homepage
    A lot of people have been saying stuff like:
    • PNGs may be great, but nobody uses them
    • PNGs never caught on because IE doesn't support them
    • PNGs will never catch on until M$ supports all their features.
    • I can't get PNGs to work
    The fact of the matter is, PNGs work great as a drop-in replacement for GIFs. If you limit yourself to what GIFs can do, IE 4.x and Netscape 4.x can use them just fine. And those browsers have just about disappeared from old age.

    Of course, if you create a 24-bit PNG to compete with an 8-bit GIF, the GIF will be smaller. Otherwise the PNG will be significantly smaller. If you use gamma correction in the PNG, weird things can happen when people have their gamma misconfigured.

    In my own tests a year ago, IE 5.5 on Windows and Mac, as well as Netscape 7 and Mozilla (on Windows, Mac and Linux), all browsers did just fine with 8-bit images, 24-bit images, as well as alpha transparency. That last one is really, really cool looking and everyone should try it.

    My theory is that few people use PNGs because most of the HTML books out there recommend GIFs because that's what the authors learned and nobody has bothered to correct them.

    More info:

  • PNG for grayscale (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stokes ( 148512 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @12:05PM (#6151124)
    One underappreciated feature of PNG that I really like is the support of 16b grayscale. While video hardware (at least the hardware I have) won't display more than 256 levels of gray, having the extra data is good for displacement mapping and such in 3D.

    (Before anyone says that their 24b video card displays more than 256 grays, consider: grayscale is R = G = B. If you have 8 bits per channel and all three channels need to be equal to form grayscale, that's only 256.)

  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @12:56PM (#6151640)
    PNG never took off because GIF never went away.

    Despite all the moaning and gnashing of teeth over the GIF patent, every graphics program produced over the past 15 years, including many shareware programs, has included GIF support. The end result was that people were able to continue creating, editing and using GIF files and the average person never even noticed a problem.

  • PNG alpha channel (Score:3, Informative)

    by cybpunks3 ( 612218 ) on Monday June 09, 2003 @01:17PM (#6151896)
    PNG is probably the best format out there for full color images w/alpha channel. It's definitely the smallest in this mode.

    You can import PNGs into Macromedia Flash and preserve the alpha channel.

    What this means is, for instance, you could import an image sequence generated by a rendering package like Lightwave and when you output the Flash, you are left with the equivalent of a JPEG image sequence layer with a perfect alpha channel on the edges. Even though the JPEG introduces blocky artefacting as the compression is ramped up, it doesn't mess up the alpha blending.

    There is nothing else I know of that can do something like that.

    I really wish JPEG had a mode with an alpha channel but it doesn't.

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