PetaPixel

Google Wants to Speed Up the Web by Killing the JPEG

Google unveiled a new image format today called WebP that it hopes will make the web faster by cutting files sizes of images without affecting quality. According to a blog post they published earlier today, photos and images account for 65% of the bytes transmitted by websites. In their tests done using 1 million randomly selected images from the web, re-encoding images as WebP resulted in an average file size reduction of 39%. Here’s a gallery with image and file size comparisons.

Like JPEG, WebP is lossy, so file size can be exchanged for image quality. It also means the benefits of the new format would be more for things like photographs rather than simple images that are more efficiently encoded as a GIF or PNG (e.g. logos, icons, etc..).

However, it’s unlikely that JPEG will die anytime soon given how ubiquitous it is on the web. Even the committee behind the JPEG tried and failed to replace it (see JPEG 2000). Rather than benefiting the web as a whole, it seems more likely that this technology will mainly benefit Google in the short term. As more and more people adopt Chrome as their browser of choice, Google can see significant savings in bandwidth and load times by checking for browser compatibility and then serving WebP images instead of JPEGs whenever appropriate. The company is planning to include support for WebP in an upcoming release of Chrome.

WebP, a new image format for the Web (via CNET)


P.S. Facebook could probably benefit greatly from this as well, given the massive spike in bandwidth usage they’ll see after increasing their max image size by eight fold.


Thanks for the tip Eugene!


 
  • http://twitter.com/HappyTinfoilCat Happy Tinfoil Cat

    After comparing the images, I would not say it doesn’t affect quality. For instance, the purple dock shows a lot more noise in the WebP shot and it didn’t compress much more.

  • http://www.webkrunk.com Eric Rowell

    Awesome! I’m so glad that Google is diverse enough to explore every nook and cranny of the web!

  • http://www.webkrunk.com Eric Rowell

    Happy Tinfoil Cat – really? I think the WepP version is incredible. If there is indeed any difference, it’s probably less than 0.01% – a very nice trade in exchange for 40% faster download times, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Matt

    Will this be an open source format? The linked article only mentions that WebP is “based on” an an existing VP8 video codec that is open source. We don’t need any more proprietary/royalty formats, and I don’t want Google to “own” anymore of the web than they already do.

    I am glad to see that they are planning on adding an alpha channel to the WebP format. I don’t know of a lossy format that currently supports masks. A downside for me is that I still use a lot of older software – I just don’t have a need to upgrade to the newer stuff. Hopefully plugins will become available to export this format using the older software.

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  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Yup, open source. Should have mentioned it:

    http://code.google.com/speed/webp/faq.html#opensource

  • Anonymous

    So, no color profile support? The main difference between the JPEGs and the WebPs seem to me to be the same as looking at a photo using AdobeRGB in a browser that renders it using sRGB. In other words, the WebP versions are much more flat and boring color wise. The difference is huge. So, for photography sites this won’t really be an option until color profile support is added.

  • NEF2JPG

    From the Google blog post: “We randomly picked about 1,000,000 images from the web and re-encoded them to WebP without perceptibly compromising visual quality. This resulted in an average 39% reduction in file size.”
    – How did they evaluate the visual quality ? Since it’s Google i guess no human being chose the compression setting for each file, and it was algorithm-based. They should explain how they did it.
    – I too can pick a lot of images on the web and compress them better using a more appropriate quality setting or file format, e.g. if you saved a JPG using Photoshop’s highest setting, it can be resaved at a lower setting without perceptible difference most of the time. Maybe the issue is about educating the user :-P

  • NEF2JPG

    Just found the technical explanation, so i’m sharing:
    http://code.google.com/speed/webp/docs/c_study.html

  • http://twitter.com/Chenshaw Christy Henshaw

    JPEG 2000 wasn’t meant to replace JPEG. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

  • http://silpol.blogspot.com silpol

    so now Google have to introduce worldwide campaign similar to cash4clunkers in US, in order to make real change in population of cameras out there – otherwise it _will_ fail too: their code does not produce images, only camera’s firmware ;)

  • Yeti

    I love that the image of the new image format is a JPEG….just sayin

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Explain?

  • Russ

    photos and images account for 65% of the bytes transmitted by websites…

    Seems like a patently contrived stat that doesn’t including “web sites” like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu…or even the proliferation of flash on web sites.

    With the amount of bandwidth consumed by video traffic nowadays, working on statc image compression algos would seem like fixing a dripping tap in the midst of a flood.

  • foobaz

    I wish their format supported an alpha channel – that’s the Achilles’ heel of JPEG, and you would think anything replacing JPEG would fix it. JPEG 2000 supports alpha channels.

  • NetworkGeek

    So how does this affect the stream compression most websites use via a load balancer (e.g. Cisco ACE, F-5). If, post stream, compression creates the same basic size, for instance if the WebP image is already more effectively compressed, then this is nothing more than a shill to get more Chrome users. Additionally until the acceleration algorithms on said network gear support the format (if they adopt it at all) that means one will have to not allow for cache and compression for this format, meaning that the .jpg in reality will move more quickly over the wire, and be better for bandwidth savings.

  • 5litrecat

    Screw Google, they’re predatory parasites!

  • 5litrecat

    You can lie all you want, but Google isn’t going to give you a bonus.

  • 5litrecat

    …..wake up people, and PROPERTY both images – they are the same image.

  • 3dsorcery

    Yeah…. this comparison image is actually BOTH images encoded into a single….. JPEG!

  • Roush

    Until Google releases a browser that can accurately render color-managed files according to current standards, they have absolutely NO business trying to introduce a new standard.

  • Roush

    Until Google releases a browser that can accurately render color-managed files according to current standards, they have absolutely NO business trying to introduce a new standard.

  • Roush

    Until Google releases a browser that can accurately render color-managed files according to current standards, they have absolutely NO business trying to introduce a new standard.