Home > File Formats > Images have been on the Internet for decades…yet there still is no standard format

Images have been on the Internet for decades…yet there still is no standard format


For many of us, Images have been on the Internet for most (or all) of our lives. They are a key part of the Internet today. Yet after all these years, there still isn’t a standard format throughout the web.

On the Yahoo! homepage, the logo is a GIF image, but the rest of the images on the page are JPEGs. Google’s logo is a GIF. The logos of Bing, Twitter, and YouTube are PNGs. Instead of one major format, there are three: GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), PNG (Portable Network Graphics), designed to replace GIF, and JPEG. And now, yet another format is being adopted: SVG.

SVG is different from traditional image formats. GIF, JPEG, and PNG formats are raster graphics, more commonly known as bitmaps. Bitmaps use pixels as a way of displaying images. The downside of this is that bitmaps can only be displayed at a certain maximum resolution without “pixelating.” SVG images, on the other hand, use shapes, such as squares, triangles, circles, etc., to display images. Using shapes rather than pixels allows SVG images to be displayed at an infinitely high resolution without any deterioration in quality.

Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome natively support SVG images. Guess who doesn’t? As always, Internet Explorer, which requires an add-on to display SVG images.

Microsoft Paint, bundled with Windows, cannot produce SVG images. Neither can GIMP, the much more advanced photo editor that comes with some distributions of Linux. Right now, the major SVG editing software is Inkscape.

Anyway, the point is, if images have been around online for such a long time, why haven’t we picked a format, especially with one of the top three formats designed to replace another. I see a competition between PNG and JPEG, with PNG probably being the winner in the end because of its lossless compression, versus JPEG’s lossy compression (lossless is better, as the quality of the image is unaffected by compression, thus the name “lossless”).

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Categories: File Formats
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