Those characteristics are of particular advantage for product design, medical applications, fine art, online catalogs, and corporate logos or brand recognition.
Although the consortium known as W3C is not a standards body, its blessing of PNG as a "W3C recommendation" is likely to make it a de facto Internet standard. It also could be taken up by a standards body like the Internet Engineering Task Force or ISO.
"We're giving a message that this is a stable spec and members think it desirable," Chris Lilley, the W3C's graphics lead, told CNET. "The W3C thinks it contributes to the interoperability of the Web."
PNG, developed as a spec by W3C and CompuServe, addresses a graphics problem for Web page designers. Without PNG, graphics appear differently and in different shades of color on screens of different kinds of computers: PCs, Macintosh, or Unix workstations. With PNG, files can be seen as intended on various machines.
PNG files average about 30 percent smaller than equivalent GIF files and can download faster to a user's screen. "The image comes sharper much more quickly, and not with that stretched appearance," Lilley said. As a result, a PNG viewer gets a first preview of an image with one sixty-fourth of the data downloaded, compared with only one-eighth for a GIF file.
In addition, Lilley said, unlike GIF, PNG is not patented, so no royalty payments are due for using PNG.