Why PNG? And what is PNG actually?

To start with the second question: PNG is a format to store pictures in. You could compare it to GIF or JPEG. The letters PNG stand for Portable Network Graphics.

PNG was invented by a bunch of Internet fanatics after the computer company Unisys had announced they were going to cash in on commercial use of their LZH compression patent. Compression helps to make files smaller. LZH is a popular compression method. It is being used amongst others in GIF, ZIP and LHA file formats.

The soon to be members of the PNG group recognised the potential financial disaster for the end user. Commercial programs would become more expensive, because the makers of these program would have to acquire a licence from Unisys per copy sold. The use of pictures on the Internet would become less attractive.

Nowadays, most producers of graphical applications have done the sensible thing and have gone ahead with the popular GIF format anyways. Most end users couldn't care less, as they steal their software instead of buying it.

Nevertheless there are some good reasons to use PNG. So why should you use PNG?

Not everything smells of roses when considering PNG. Lately, animated GIFs are all the rage on the Internet. Unfortunately there is no animated PNG format and there will never be an official one. The PNG consortium does allow extensions to the format, but this may lead to a multitude of animated PNG formats being made (which is bad, because there will be no standard). In this case it probably is better to still use GIF.

The PNG consortium have their own homepage at

Branko Collin, April 1997


14 September 1999

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