Google has recently announced WebP as a new image format that promises better compression for web files than current jpegs. Google claims that the new image format will reduce file size by 40% of jpegs without losing quality. I’ll have to admit that I was pretty excited at the possibility of having an image format with better compression than jpeg, but is WebP going to be able to gain acceptance as a jpeg alternative?

Tux And Blue Shoes

Benefits of Smaller Image Size
The goal of WebP is to reduce the amount of bandwidth required to download webpage content. But that’s just the beginning if WebP takes off. Smaller file size would also mean less disk space being used on servers and the user’s browser cache. If camera manufacturer’s started using a smaller file format, it would mean that the space on the compact flash card would result in more images on a single card. Then storing the pictures on a hard drive would take up less space. With any luck, image editing operations would even happen faster because of the smaller file size.

Obstacles To Mainstream Adoption
The jpeg format has been around for quite a few years, and to overthrow an existing standard will take something truly amazing. The new WebP format only helps out web users if the browsers they’re using support the format. Otherwise, a format that saves a few seconds downloading a picture will be pointless because the image won’t be displayed on the webpage. If Microsoft doesn’t want Google’s new image format to succeed, they can simply refuse to add support for the format, and WebP will have probably seen it’s last days. After browser support is added, there’s still support in operating systems, image editing software, and other software that will still be a challenge. Then to take full advantage of the format, camera manufacturers and other hardware devices like DVD players will have to start using WebP.

Initial Response To WebP
I was surprised to find that most of the initial comments related to WebP were negative. Why wouldn’t people be eager to jump on the opportunity to use a better file format? Actually people WERE eager to use a better file format, but most were arguing that WebP was NOT the best format. I hadn’t even heard of the JPEG2000 file format or any of the other similar formats, but apparently there are already much better alternatives to the aged jpeg files we’re using now. The problem is adoption into software. Aside from there already being existing alternatives to jpeg, WebP also recieved criticism from some who claimed the images lost color in the conversion.

To me, it seems like the best of all outcomes would be for JPEG2000 to finally get the press it needs to be accepted. If that’s not going to happen, I’m still ok with WebP as a replacement for jpeg provided that whatever issues it faces with losing color gets resolved. Anything to save space would help. Would you guys use WebP if you had the option of jpeg and WebP?

6 Responses to “Jpeg Replacement?”

  1. Some how I just think that the name of JPEG2010 is “too long ago”. If it had taken off back then, sure. But now, it’s a funny name.

    I’m not sure about WebP though. Also a funny name I guess, but maybe people thought the same about JPEG in the beginning :) I’d rather have faster Internet than a smaller picture which might take *years* to gain support in browsers, applications etc.

    • TJ says:

      So do you think the name and the success of the format are closely linked? For me, I think it’s less about name and more about performance.

      As far as faster internet, it’s getting to the point where the faster speeds are available in cities, but I think you’re right about the fact that it will probably take a while for fast internet to spread to the outskirts.

      • Nope, I don’t think so. But there are other people in the world than tech savvy folks like you and me and even though we might use it because it has better performance, I think it’s going to take a very long time for “everybody else” to start using it too.

        It’s hard to say really, Google may be one of the few companies that can launch a succesful new format, right?

        • TJ says:

          You’re probably right about everybody else being influenced by different factors.

          Google definitely has an advantage in that they’re an established name, but I think even Google may has an uphill battle overthrowing a market standard (ie Google Chrome really hasn’t done much to take Internet Explorer market). I guess the only thing to do is wait and see.

  2. jason says:

    Aside from the jpeg2000 format I am also noticing a movement toward png use on. The web. Not only is it a fairly smooth compression and has cross broswer support, it also allows for transparency which I don’t think is a characteristic of webP

    • TJ says:

      So I wonder how the compression of a png compares to jpeg 2000. Do you happen to know Jason? I think if I remember from some of the stuff I was reading that jpeg2000 does support transparency. Also, the next version of WebP was slated to have support for transparency.