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Google's new image format promises 40% smaller files

updated 07:20 pm EDT, Thu September 30, 2010

Format designed to compete with JPEG

Google today said it would introduce a new image format designed to compete directly with current JPEG standards. The format, named WebP and pronounced "weppy," promises to reduce file sizes by 40 percent compared to JPEGs, which could help websites load faster and reduce strain on networks.

WebP is still affected by the same compression drawbacks as JPEG, as image quality suffers as the file size is reduced. However, they shouldn't lose quality and should reduce the overhead on mobile devices.

The search giant is currently in discussions with browser developers to bolster support for the new standard. The company will bring WebP support to its own Chrome browser some time in the next few weeks, although it is unclear if other browsers will adopt the format.

Risks existed of potential lawsuits. WebP currently uses still frames from the WebM video format and is potentially subject to the same patent disputes raised by the MPEG-LA video standards group and its member companies share. Apple and other firms have so far been hesitant to use WebM as they don't want to risk the format being dropped through legal challenges. Google has so far maintained that WebM is patent-free but hasn't had direct evidence to this effect.

by MacNN Staff



  1. mr100percent

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I don't get it

    "WebP is still affected by the same compression drawbacks as JPEG, as image quality suffers as the file size is reduced. However, they shouldn't lose quality..."

    I don't get it, that sounds contradictory

  1. tightzeit

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I don't get it either

    "WebP is still affected by the same compression drawbacks as JPEG, as image quality suffers as the file size is reduced. However, they shouldn't lose quality..."

    Completely illogical statement.

  1. mproud

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Image quality

    Yeah the statement is a little weird, but I think that it's trying to mean that the format doesn't lose quality at any faster rate when compared to JPEG.

  1. The Vicar

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Only Three Relevant Questions

    1. Will this format be guaranteed free to decode? If not, it's not going to catch on in web browsers, and will never be more than a niche.

    2. Will this format be guaranteed free to encode? It doesn't absolutely have to be in order to catch on, but it would really help. (Compressed GIFs had to have a paid encoder until the LZW patent expired and they were still popular the while time -- then again, GIFs became popular during the period when the patent wasn't being enforced, so they had time to gain support before the disincentives kicked in.)

    3. Will Adobe support it? Adobe stinks, but their products are still the single largest chunk of graphics creation for both the web and print.

    Other than that, all questions are moot. If they aren't easy to make and view, who cares whether they're smaller?

    Frankly, I don't see it catching on any time soon; look how long PNG took to take off -- and that was a format which was smaller (in 8-bit mode) than uncompressed GIF and was free to encode. Web designers and camera manufacturers are going to stick to JPEG for a long time to come for compatibility reasons, and print graphic artists won't use lossy formats in the middle of a workflow and will stick to JPEG for publication just like web designers will.

    By the way: isn't it funny how when Apple or Microsoft creates a standard without going through an independent standardizing body, they get demonized for trying to control things, but WebM and WebP are being pushed by Google and Mozilla without any flack whatsoever? Just more Open-Source hypocrisy.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I'm skeptical this will see much if any widespread adoption; after all, the JPEG2000 format provides some significant structural and decent quality advantages over traditional JPEG, yet after a decade in existence with theoretically royalty-free technology the adoption is basically zero.

    Not that I wouldn't like to see something more robust than an 18-year-old encoding format with widespread support (look at where video encoders were in 1992 and imagine if we were stuck with that technology), but there just doesn't seem to be the strong impetus to do so.

    You're going to need a substantial browser share before anyone not targeting bleeding-edge users only will even consider it (look how long it took for PNG to surpass GIF), and the size/quality advantage isn't so huge that it's going to change the world in the era of cheap bandwidth. Maybe in higher-end mobile apps, where browsers tend to be newer and more consistently updated, and bits are at a premium.

    40% just doesn't sound like that much these days, but of course, one other advantage is that the way in which the quality degrades might be more pleasing to the eye--the block artifacts in JPEGs are particularly ugly, so something with a softer but less blocky fuzziness might end up looking much nicer even if the visual quality, in mathematic terms, isn't any better.

    Also, software patents suck, and the fear of submarine patents on things like this is a prime example of why.

  1. facebook_Chris

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Oct 2010


    Misleading compression values

    On their comparison page they compare uncompressed (or slightly compressed) JPEGs to WebP. The football player image is 661KB. A Photoshop Save for Web at 60% (JPEG High) brings it down to 180KB and 50% down to 131KB and both images are still pretty good quality. The WebP version is 161KB which is slightly better than the standard JPEG web save but not a lot.

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