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Officially known as Graphics Interchange Format, Gif is a bitmap image format released in 1987. Developed by CompuServe, the format is used for images and sprites in programs and the Web. It reached high popularity due to being supported by practically all operating systems and software. Its filename extension is .gif

Besides images, Gif supports metadata. But the format is famous for allowing animation. Gif files can be animated using an elementary stream of images. The format also uses lossless compression, specifically the Lempel–Ziv–Welch algorithm. That means Gif doesn't lessen the quality of the images, and it's smaller than uncompressed formats.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Gif Format.

The Gif format is among the most used image formats on the Web, among PNG and JPEG. That's thanks to its excellent characteristics, but it also has its drawbacks.


  • Lossless compression. The Gif format doesn't reduce the image quality when compressing it. The data gets smaller, and resolution keeps intact.
  • Small file size. Due to being a compressed format, it's smaller than most image formats.
  • Universal image format. All devices, viewers, and web browsers support the Gif format. Everyone can open this kind of file with no issue.


  • Not friendly with slow connections. Animated gifs can take more time than desired when loading on the Web if the Internet connection is slow.
  • Color palette limitation. The Gif format allows up to 256 colors for each image. Such a limitation makes images look pixelated. For that reason, this format is not well-suited for photography in general.
  • Impossible to edit. Once you make a gif file, it can't be edited. You have to redo the file from scratch if you want to change it.

Frequently Answered Questions

Are animated Gif files videos?

No, Gif files aren't videos. This format doesn't store video data, not even when animated.

An animated gif is the swift succession of an images collection. It's an image sequence. That differs from a video due to the following reasons:

  • Image sequences are made of a group of single pictures.
  • Video frames are divided into chunks and are cohesive. Each gif frame is an image on its own.
  • You can get a folder of the entire series of images from a gif. You can't do the same with a video.

Can a Gif be a still image?

Yes, Gif files can be still images. That's its original feature. Animation came after, but it became its main charm in recent years to the point that gifs became a synonym of animated images.

Can a Gif be a true-color image?

Although uncommon, gifs can be true-color images. That means it's possible to display more than 256 colors with this format.

The method to accomplish that is as follow:

  • The image is divided into several blocks.
  • Each block contains 256 different colors.
  • The blocks are combined into a single image, creating a picture with all colors in the process.

The method is not generally used because the file ends up being too big.

How is the word "Gif" pronounced?

There is a debate about if "gif" is pronounced like "jiff" or not. The creator of the format, Steve Wilhite, pronounces it with the "j." But both pronunciations are correct.

Why are Gif files larger than JPEG?

JPEG format uses lossy compression. The format discard data from the original picture to reduce the file size. Since the Gif is a lossless format, the images data is larger than JPEG.