The Search for the Image Format of the future Continues

The folks at Google Chrome won’t be the ones that select the image format of the future … that choice will be made by companies like Adobe, that make the programs that prepare images for the web.

Images are an essential part of nearly every Internet website and service. We have seen progress in other areas of interest in regards to web formats. There is a lot going on when it comes to video formats for example, with new formats promising better quality, lower file sizes and better performance. When it comes to image formats, the web is still relying on formats that were introduced in the beginning days of the Internet. The popular jpeg image format was introduced back in 1992 while the png image format made its debut in 1996.

These standard formats are supported by all modern web browsers and most websites use them when it comes to displaying images on their sites.

Recently, companies have started to look at successor formats that in regards to jpg, that offer better compression and at the very least an equal image quality.

Google’s WebP format is one of those candidates. It is already tested in the wild on Google properties mainly, where the format is served to Chrome users exclusively (if you connect with a different browser, say Firefox, you get png or jpg images instead).

While it is clear that Google will push the company’s own WebP format as best as it can, other browser developing organizations and companies are not as quick to adopt. One of the main reason here is that WebP is no the only format that promises better compression ratios.

image format future

Mozilla conducted a study recently that analyzed the compression quality of four different image formats: JPEG XR, WebP, HEVC-MSP, and the standard JPEG format to establish a baseline.  The study itself only looked at the lossy image compression efficiency of said formats, and not at other metrics and data that matters. In particular, it did not include feature sets, performance during run-rime, licensing or time to market in the study.

According to the study, HEVC-MSP performed best in most tests, and in the tests that it was not best, it came in second to the original JPEG format.

Mozilla, which rejected to include the WebP format previously in the Firefox web browser, is still considering adding support for it to the browser, especially since popular third party websites such as Facebook have started to make use of it.

One should not read too much into the study. It is a limited test that looks only at the compression quality and not at other metrics that may be of equal importance.

The quest for the image format of the future continues.

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