Earlier today, Matthias Gelbmann of W3Techs - a service that "provides information about the usage of various types of technologies on the web" - reported that PNG has become (at the time of this writing) a more popular used file format than GIF's by a margin of .1%.
It was only a year ago that GIF was leading the way with a margin of 15% more employment than the brethren format PNG. But, all that has changed with new numbers that show PNG is being used by 62.4% of all Web sites as compared to the 62.3% using GIFs.
These numbers also now make PNG's only second to JPEG's file format preferences on the part of all Web sites. It should be noted that PNG is a "lossless image compression format," whereas JPEG is not (thusly, for those in the cheap seats, these numbers make PNG the most popular lossless image compression file format on the Web).
PNG, or Portable Network Graphics, are "raster graphic images" (dot matrix data structures representing - generally rectangular - viewable pixels/colored points) that were initially released - ironically enough - as an improvement on the non-patented Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) in 1996. Created specifically for the Internet and not for (professional quality) print, PNGs support: 24-bit RGB, 32-bit RGBA, gray scale, full-color RGB images (sans the A-alpha channel).
CompuServe - the first major US commercial online service - released GIFs nine years prior to release of "improved" counterpart PNG. Color limitation inherent to GIFs make them less than great for usage in reproducing images with continuous colors such as color photographs. Their unique DNA, however, makes them more than adequate at representing logos and graphics imbued with solid color.
Although patent issues surrounding GIFs made the creation of PNGs a more viable reality, in Gelbmann's opinion, the technical limitations of the format - such as being larger files than PNGs, typically - are what has made PNGs resoundingly catch up in utilization with its flailing, gray-beard predecessor.
Gelbmann does point out that GIFs remain a more suitable option in the realm of animated graphics, but is quick to point out that that phenom's fifteen minutes are more or less up sans the occasional winking banner ad.
Though GIFs are still, according to Gelbmann's findings, used more frequently than PNGs on the Top 1000 Web sites, the sea change is in the wind with three times as many Web sites changing from GIF to PNG than vice versa.
Seems that in the battle between the "lossy" and the "lossless," GIF is the loss-iest today.