It may have been named "word of the year," but as an image format, the GIF has never been less popular.
Oxford American Dictionaries has named GIF, the acronym for graphical image format, its word of the year. "Like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier," said the head of US dictionaries at the press.
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Now, it's certainly true that animated GIFs, images that display an endless loop of frames, have enjoyed a renaissance in the 2010s, even playing a prominent role in the just-completed US presidential election. But it's worth noting that, as an image format, GIF has never been less popular.
The Internet Archive keeps track of this. According to its HTTP Archive, GIFs now comprise 29% of all images on the web's million most popular sites, down from 41% two years ago. At this rate, GIFs could practically disappear from the web by the end of this decade.
There's a good explanation for this, having nothing to do with the retro-cool animations that have found their way back into web culture. GIF is simply not a great image format: colors aren't very sharp, and the files can be enormous. GIF,created in 1987, shows its age. PNG is more flexible and generally results in better image quality, which is why it has stolen 10% of the web from GIF since 2010--now comprising 26% of all images--and will soon become the number-two format.