From the GeoTIFF site: TIFF has emerged as one of the world’s most popular raster file formats. But TIFF remains limited in cartographic applications, since no publicly available, stable structure for conveying geographic information presently exists in the public domain.
Several private solutions exist for recording cartographic information in TIFF tags. Intergraph has a mature and sophisticated geotie tag implementation, but this remains within the private TIFF tagset registered exclusively to Intergraph. Other companies (such as ESRI, and Island Graphics) have geographic solutions which are also proprietary or limited by specific application to their software’s architecture.
Many GIS companies, raster data providers, and their clients have requested that the companies concerned with delivery and exploitation of raster geographic imagery develop a publicly available, platform interoperable standard for the support of geographic TIFF imagery. Such TIFF imagery would originate from satellite imaging platforms, aerial platforms, scans of aerial photography or paper maps, or as a result of geographic analysis. TIFF images which were supported by the public “geotie” tagset would be able to be read and positioned correctly in any GIS or digital mapping system which supports the “GeoTIFF” standard, as proposed in this document.
The savings to the users and providers of raster data and exploitation softwares are potentially significant. With a platform interoperable GeoTIFF file, companies could stop spending excessive development resource in support of any and all proprietary formats which are invented. Data providers may be able to produce off-the-shelf imagery products which can be delivered in the “generic” TIFF format quickly and possibly at lower cost. End-users will have the advantage of developed software that exploits the GeoTIFF tags transparently. Most importantly, the same raster TIFF image which can be read and modified in one GIS environment may be equally exploitable in another GIS environment without requiring any file duplication or import/export operation.
The GeoTIFF Format Specification may be found here: http://www.remotesensing.org/geotiff/spec/geotiffhome.html