It feels like the GIF has had a huge resurgence of recent time. People are making more wonderful animations than ever, GIF was officially the Word of 2012, and in December there was even a GIF Fest in Miami. But it turns out GIF use is actually in decline.
Web Technology Services has been poking its nose around to find out about image use across the internet. But it's bad news for the GIF: for the first time ever, the PNG has overtaken it in terms of ubiquity. The PNG is now used on 62.4 percent of all websites, compared to the GIF which is used on 62.3 percent. One year ago, the GIF was leading the race by a clear 15 percent.
So why the shift? Web Technology Surveys explains:
[I]t's the technical superiority that now convinces webmasters to chose PNG over GIF. PNG results in smaller files most of the time, it supports a much wider range of color depths and transparency options. The only feature where GIF still shines is its support for animation. However, most people find that dancing icons on a website make it look like it hasn't been redesigned in the last 15 years. Animation is mostly used for ads nowadays, and even there, animated GIF's would be considered the poor mans alternative to Flash.
The GIF was was first introduced by CompuServe in 1987, which means the file format is now over 25 years old. Can it see through another 25?
Update: As Jesus Diaz points out in the discussions below, this isn't really an animated GIF issue. For clarity:
Animated GIFs are more used and popular than ever, their usage is in the increase. What tilts the balance to PNGs are the user interface elements. Where web developers used to employ tons of static GIFs, now they are using PNGs, which are intrinsically better for this because they employ 8-bit alpha channels (transparency) instead of the 1-bit used in GIFs. The 8-bit alpha transparency result in 256 levels, which makes elements merge together nicely vs the crappy looking 1-bit GIF.
So yes, PNGs are more popular now according to this metric, but that doesn't mean a decline in the animated GIF usage.