The Graphics Interchange Format (better known by its acronym GIF) is a bitmap image format that was introduced by CompuServe in 1987 and has since come into widespread usage on the World Wide Web due to its wide support and portability.
The format supports up to 8 bits per pixel for each image, allowing a single image to reference its own palette of up to 256 different colors chosen from the 24-bit RGB color space. It also supports animations and allows a separate palette of up to 256 colors for each frame. These palette limitations make the GIF format unsuitable for reproducing color photographs and other images with continuous color, but it is well-suited for simpler images such as graphics or logos with solid areas of color.
- GIFs are suitable for sharp-edged line art (such as logos) with a limited number of colors. This takes advantage of the format's lossless compression, which favors flat areas of uniform color with well defined edges.
- GIFs can be used to store low-color sprite data for games.
- GIFs can be used for small animations and low-resolution film clips.
- Since a single GIF image palette is limited to 256 colors, it is not usually used as a format for digital photography. Digital photographers use image file formats capable of reproducing a greater range of colors, such as TIFF, RAW or JPEG.