Google develops Web format to replace JPEG

Google says during its ongoing initiative to make the web faster, it noticed “a single component of web pages is consistently responsible for the majority of the latency on pages across the web: images.”

Images and photos make up about 65 percent of the bytes transmitted per web page today, Google adds. “They can significantly slow down a user’s web experience, especially on bandwidth-constrained networks such as a mobile network.”

As “most of the common image formats on the web today were established over a decade ago,” Google engineers looked for a way to further compress lossy images like JPEG to make them load faster, while still preserving quality and resolution.

The company is now releasing a developer preview of its new image format, WebP, “that promises to significantly reduce the byte size of photos on the web, allowing web sites to load faster than before.”

WebP is based on the VP8 codec that Google open-sourced in May 2010, and adapts “a very lightweight container based on RIFF.”

Google claims its tests on 1,000,000 images (“mostly JPEGs and some PNGs and GIFs”) showed an average 39 percent reduction in file size. “We expect that developers will achieve in practice even better file size reduction with WebP when starting from an uncompressed image,” the company concludes.

We note the take of CNET’s Stephen Shankland on the new format:

“WebP, like JPEG, lets its users trade off image quality for file size. And like JPEG, it’s a “lossy” format, meaning it doesn’t perfectly reproduce an original image but tries to keep as true to the original as possible when viewed by the human eye.
“Unlike JPEG, though, it’s not built into every camera, Web browser, image-editing program, pharmacy photo-printing kiosk, and mainstream operating system in existence.”