A bit of news on the GIF hullabaloo
Date: Fri, 6 Jan 95 13:37:41 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: A bit of news on the GIF hullabaloo
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
From: Wendell Craig Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At 11 AM this morning I wrote
``And too, it remains to be seen how much real interest there is
behind Boutell or anyone else's proposal for the development of
an interchange format that is clear of the Unisys patents.''
This one's moving fast. I stand corrected.
Telegrafix apparently has a new GIF format that won't require a patent
license-through from Unisys. And they are prepared to give it away
free. They want a blessing from CompuServe on this action before
releasing the code.
TELEGRAFIX OFFERS FREE SOFTWARE SOLUTION TO FIX GIF PROBLEM
From: Pat Clawson <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 95 06:43:10 -0500
Organization: Delphi (firstname.lastname@example.org email, 800-695-4005 voice)
January 5, 1995
An Open Letter to the Senior Management of CompuServe and the Online
HOW TO SAVE GIF -- NOW !!
Following last weekend's surprise announcement of the
CompuServe-Unisys GIF Tax, we agree with many in the online
communications community that a group is needed to create a new
imaging format. New compression methods allow us to design a format
that's smaller, more flexible, and ready to go the distance for our
future needs. But let's take a hard look at the current crisis at
There are thousands of software products in the market featuring GIF
support, from shareware to professional commercial packages. There are
thousands of BBS systems and Web sites transmitting GIF images to
online customers all over the world. What happens to these products
and their developers when January 10th hits? Does the online
community stop viewing GIFs online? Will Web Sites have holes in the
HTML pages where the GIFs should have been? Will sysops be told to
remove GIFs and GIF-related software from all non-CompuServe related
systems? How many millions of dollars will be lost by software
developers and sysops?
Like all of us, we're waiting for a possible announcement from
CompuServe and Unisys that may solve our problems. That same
announcement may also seal GIF's demise. We need a backup plan if
things don't go well.
Some say GIF is dead. We think it's just broken.
SO WE FIXED IT.
We replaced the broken part - LZW compression.
So now, we propose a remedy that may cure our problem in a timely
If CompuServe really wants to continue to provide the GIF format under
the conditions of their original royalty-free license, but can't
because of the patented Unisys LZW compression algorithm, the most
painless cure is to substitute another compression scheme. Here's our
fix. See what you think:
* We just completed a 2-day, no-sleep marathon to yank the LZW
routines out of our GIF89a code and replace it with an open form of
* In our testing, the LZHUF compression produced GIF files that were
virtually identical in size to the LZW version. Some LZHUF images
were slightly larger.
* We have followed the GIF89a format specification to the letter,
except for the part that defines the type of compression method used
on the image data (LZHUF vs LZW).
* We replaced all LZW functions in our GIF library with LZHUF
functions. This two hour change to our software produced a completely
functional GIF library (Interlaced, Comment Blocks, Masking Bits,
Etc.). EVERYTHING WAS INTACT AND WORKING FINE WITHOUT ANY NEED FOR
* We also wrote a program to convert the original GIF87a and GIF89a
images to the LZHUF version of our proposed GIF format.
There has been talk in this forum of a GEF (Graphics Exchange Format)
or a GIF95a format, and even the replacement of the LZW part of GIF.
We took the initiative and created GEF.
We think GEF is a quick and viable solution to our problem.
TeleGrafix Communications offers it to the online community FREE OF
CHARGE as a public service.
We are willing to upload our proposed GEF update with ALL SOURCE CODE
intact so everyone can convert their current GIF files from the closed
LZW form to the open LZHUF form.
All we ask is that CompuServe give us its approval.
Developers need make only minimal changes to their original GIF source
code. It took us only 2 hours. Most GIF-based products that your
customers own can be upgraded WITH JUST A PATCH FILE.
GIFs and LZW would become unrelated immediately and we could get back
the open, royalty-free format we have come to depend on. If
CompuServe will not allow the compression method to be changed, then
GIF is truly a dead format.
We appreciate any comments on our proposal, especially from GIF's
creators at CompuServe. If it is not supported by CompuServe or the
online community, then it will be deleted along with all of our other
GIF-related files. We will stay with JPEG, and search for an entirely
new image format standard.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Vice President & Chief Technology Officer
TeleGrafix Communications Inc.
Phone: (714) 379-2140
Fax: (714) 379-2132
BBS: (714) 379-2133
© 1995 Peter Langston