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True colors shine through

World Wide Web Consortium members endorse a graphics specification, called Portable Networks Graphics, that allows truer colors and faster loading of graphics from Web sites.

World Wide Web Consortium members have endorsed a graphics specification, called Portable Networks Graphics, that allows truer colors and faster loading of graphics from Web sites.

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.

Lilley said Macromedia now supports PNG in all its authoring tools, and Adobe Systems is supporting PNG in the 4.0 version of Photoshop.