Practical use for matte for graphics?

I was wondering, when saving a GIF or PNG file , what is the point of matte? As a graphics professional I know what matte is and does, but I don’t see how it solves anything when applied to a transparency.

Lets say i have a graphic of an object with a drop shadow which I intend to save as a transparent GIF. I am given the option to choose a mate color or matte “none”. I know that the transition while be harsher if i chose none ( I will lose the feathering in an effect similar to “tonal clipping”) I may even get a slight halo.

Enter “matte” If I chose a matte color, then the effect is that any pixel not 100% transparent get blended with the matte color… looks messy by itself but on a solid background the feathered effect would be preserved almost flawlessly. Then again that’s my question in a nutshell. Why use matte at all? If you know the color of the background ( the matte color) why not forgo using transparency all together? If you don’t know the color of the background the matte option is pretty useless or can even do more harm than good. So… is there a third situation, that I am just not aware of, in which matte saves the day? Or is Matte just a vestigial option that never got removed from a myriad of graphic programs?

I have to say I’m curious about this one too. Having a print background and seeing the evolution of images shift over the years to web formats I’ve always just assumed that is was more a hangover from times gone by. I’m happy to be corrected on this but so far have never had much use for it (still curious though).

Well. thus far it’s only use seems to be if you have ant-aliased text. you can average the bg near the text ( or if it’s a solid color use that solid color) as a matte color.

But again, in the case of the bg begin a solid color… why not just make a NON transparent gif? Even with anti aliased text if the bg is not the same or similar color than the original, you get a distracting halo.

with images that include shadows or other natural transparencies the result is almost always AWFUL.