GIF File Format
GIF files can contain bitmaps at a variety of color depths: 2, 4, 16, or 256 color, in each case with a palette.
The GIF format has between through two revisions (87a and 89a), and the newer revision (89a) is a superset of the older version (87a). Modern GIF-compatible software, should therefore have no problem reading files of either revision.
The 89a revision of GIF supports transparency, interlacing, and simple animation whereby multiple images within a single GIF file can be displayed in a timed or looped sequence.
GIF files are compressed using an LZW compression scheme, which attracted a large amount of controversy when Unisys announced this algorithm was patented, and charged license fees for software developers using this algorithm. However, according to The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer's Perspective, these patents have now expired as of 20 June 2004.
As a result of the controversy resulting for the patent claims around this format, software developers took a number of steps:
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