Burn All GIFs

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The GIF patent issues expired in 2004, and GIFs are currently allowed uploads on Wikipedia.

(For why GIFs are bad, see http://burnallgifs.org/ )

At present, when someone uploads a GIF image file to Wikipedia, they're told it's "not a recommended format". This isn't likely to stop anyone once they've got that far, so they'll probably just hit "Save anyway". Plus, we've got a zillion GIF files already uploaded from the olden days.

Would it be desireable to do automated conversion to PNG? Or at the least, offering a conversion along with that upload warning?


  • By eliminating the use of a patent-encumbered file format on our site, we support the open/free-content ideals this project is built on.
  • Wikipedia and Bomis avoid the potential of a Unisys lawsuit for 'contributory infringement' of their LZW compression patent for providing download of files that might be compressed with unlicensed software.
  • PNG is a better format - better compression, full-colour support, and is the official GIF24 format, too.


  • Animated GIFs can't be converted cleanly (or is that a pro? ;) (Note that there is MNG, but it's not widely supported)
  • Some browsers don't support transparency in PNGs correctly. These are older versions, but still in use.
  • Conversion may hide/destroy embedded comments which note the origin of a mistakenly uploaded copyrighted non-GFDL image, making it harder to track down things we need to eliminate
  • The GIF patent expired in 2004.


Mine (Magnus Manske):

  • I'm all for PNGs.
  • Bomis can't be sued by Unisys for using GIFs. Only for generating/saving them without paying a fee to Unisys.
  • There lies the problem: To generate PNGs from GIFs, Bomis will have to use software that pays patent fees to Unisys, AFAIK.
  • Dump animated GIFs! :-)
  • The transparency issue concerns only the alpha channel, AFAIK. Defining a color as transparent, like GIFs do, should work.
  • I suspect many "illegal" images on wikipedia already, so one more losing that embedded GIF notice won't matter...

Tarquin 's :

  • PNGs are good
  • Animated GIFs are horrible. I can think of very few instances where they would be justified. (simple kinematics -- but would need soooo many frames). And to my knowledge, the only animated GIFs we have are horrible "widgety" things that have no actual content.
  • Automated conversion -- do you mean at upload or a one-time pass through all of our existing GIFs?
    • Upload -- let's ban GIFs. problem solved. If users really can't save in PNG format, they can always ask at the Vilage Pump for someone else to convert for them
    • Mass conversion -- This would be able to sniff animated GIFs, right? It could generate a list that we can examine for a) convert to MNG b) KILL!!!!
Likewise comments -- conversion script could rip out comment blocks and add them to the [ [image: page?
  • Transparency isn't much of an issue since we know we're on a white background. It certainly hasn't bothered us for the TeX PNGs.


Who cares? GIFs will be free soon, unlike Mickey Mouse. There are a few legitimate uses of GIF anims, but I'd like to get rid of the animated flags and stuff like that. There should be a policy against that. Better yet, a law. With severe punishment.


When will GIFs be a free format? How many animated GIFs do we have? Is Magnus right (I don't think so) that we would need some for-pay software to convert away from GIF's? (I think only creating them is encumbered, not reading them.)

My feeling is that getting rid of them is a good thing for the reasons you mentioned, but if the time left on the patent is short enough, it'll be a moot point soon enough.