Google goes after JPEG with WebP format

Apparently, Google isn’t done trying to take over the Internet. After announcing the WebM video format earlier this year, the company has now revealed another, similar project: WebP, which is meant to replace JPEG as the standard for lossy image compression on the web. No kidding. Google has written about the endavor on its Chromium Blog, and it’s even released some tools so developers can get their hands dirty with the format already.

These two paragraphs from the blog post sum up the endeavor pretty well. In a nutshell, Google says 65% of the data transferred over the web today are images, and it wants to introduce a more efficient format to speed things up.

To improve on the compression that JPEG provides, we used an image compressor based on the VP8 codec that Google open-sourced in May 2010. We applied the techniques from VP8 video intra frame coding to push the envelope in still image coding. We also adapted a very lightweight container based on RIFF. While this container format contributes a minimal overhead of only 20 bytes per image, it is extensible to allow authors to save meta-data they would like to store.
While the benefits of a VP8 based image format were clear in theory, we needed to test them in the real world. In order to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts, we randomly picked about 1,000,000 images from the web (mostly JPEGs and some PNGs and GIFs) and re-encoded them to WebP without perceptibly compromising visual quality. This resulted in an average 39% 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.

A gallery with some WebP image samples is up, as well. I’ve gotta say, the WebP shots look pretty darned good considering their purportedly smaller file sizes. The JPEGs seem to look a tad sharper, but it’s hard to tell the difference without looking really closely.

Comments closed
    • jcw122
    • 9 years ago

    My only concern….how does Google plan to track my personal information using these formats and make money off it?

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      The container comes with a keylogger, activates your webcam and sends facebook messages to everyone when you watch porn.

        • indeego
        • 9 years ago

        It compresses Buzz to just Buzg{<.<}g

    • RealPjotr
    • 9 years ago

    How does it compare to JPEG2000?

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 9 years ago

    The WebP images look like warmed-over crap to me.

    But maybe with refinement it won’t be so bad.

    • HisDivineShadow
    • 9 years ago

    I commend the idea. Anything that saves space is fine by me. Even if it’s as small as pics, it all adds up over time. Why waste bandwidth if you don’t have to?

    Assuming there are no proprietary hooks, hopefully Firefox and Chrome’ll pick it up. If those two do, I expect Safari will too just because Google will have done the work to get it into Chrome (and Apple can piggyback off the open effort). With those three, Microsoft will too, if they continue their, “We want to play well with others now, we like standards. Honest! We do!” IE9 mantra.

    If IE, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari support it, then it may well get traction.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 9 years ago

    I’d like to see an animated version. Sometimes you want to share something that’s in motion, and you can only use image formats, and GIF compression is really really out of date. If Google provided a better animated image option, it would be awesome. Might also help them make real inroads, as this is something people might actually want, while JPEG is getting the job done well enough for 95% of users.

    • Skrying
    • 9 years ago

    Superior formats to JPEG already exist. Why doesn’t Google just help push one of those? Google is developing a major case of “developed here.” It’s incredibly frustrating to watch companies spend money creating technologies whose sole purpose to fill a desire to own the entire ecosystem. It hurts improvements for the end user tremendously because instead of coming up with a superior standard everyone is wasting time arguing and pushing their own minor improvement instead of actually implementing the improvement.

      • sschaem
      • 9 years ago

      What open source image codec are you thinking about?

      Google didn’t re-invent the wheel, they took their already existing VP8 code.

        • Skrying
        • 9 years ago

        JPEG2000 already exists. It’s superior to JPEG. It’s just as available to use. Except no one uses it. Likely because companies that could push it rather push their own format. It’s wasteful.

          • DrCR
          • 9 years ago

          More like because it has a rubbish name. 😉

          • eitje
          • 9 years ago

          according to the JPEG2000 wikipedia article:

          q[

          • thesmileman
          • 9 years ago

          More likely it isn’t used because it is expensive to encode the format (if you use the full spec you have to pay for each piece of software which encodes with it) and the file format is ridiculously huge. There are 10 (at my last count) par1s to the spec and it is not trivial to implement the decoding especially if you support all parts. Don’t get me wrong the compression with JPEG 2000 is good but the aforementioned issues make it unlikely to get wide adoption.

          • sschaem
          • 9 years ago

          jpeg2000 is rubish. Its heavy, complex, slow, and doesn;t always beat even jpeg compression for detailed images.

          Jpeg2000 is only ok when you compress so much you get blurry results instead of blocky.

          So far Webp seem vastly superior to jpeg2000 in every ways…

    • ryko
    • 9 years ago

    why? with ever expanding hdds, 10Gbe, etc… coming, why do we need this? if wildly successful, this would just allow ISPs to continue slacking with their claimed speeds…see it feels faster even though you are getting the same 10Mbps down while the rest of the world can get 100Mbps or whatever. speed up the infrastructure, not the stuff we are pushing through the “pipes.”

    i am not against new formats or optimization per say …this just seems like a waste of time. i want higher quality, not more lossy formats.

      • Welch
      • 9 years ago

      Sorry to dissagree, but if images keep getting better in quality, and they are thanks to 8-10mp phone cameras and other advances in photography… your 10mpbs connection just got even more screwed by the larger file sizes. Reduce them and enjoy getting part of that connection back. With computer hardware being so beefy like it is today, your 4 or 6 core proccessor can easily handle decompressing a more compressed image or two. Will it be wildly noticeable in web page loading… no. Will it be noticable at all… i’m sure.

      Good move by Google… I just wish they would slow down and perfect one idea before moving to another 10 concepts.

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      There must be a niche, else Opera Turbo wouldn’t exist either.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 9 years ago

        If it can produce the same quality at a lower file size, it should be able to produce higher quality at the same file size, no?

      • A_Pickle
      • 9 years ago

      Wrong: We can improve both, and substantially improve the web experience for users by doing so. Why not that? Would that be so effing hard?

    • TheEmrys
    • 9 years ago

    l[< In order to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts, we randomly picked about 1,000,000 images from the web (mostly JPEGs and some PNGs and GIFs) and re-encoded them to WebP without perceptibly compromising visual quality. <]l Looks like someone was paid to look at pr0n.

    • jstern
    • 9 years ago

    I was really excited about Windows Media Photo aka JPEGXR back in 2007. It was supposed to take off, but nothing. I use it for lossless compression of my scans, since it does a much better job than PNG. I know IE9 will support it, hopefully it will take off, but I was really expecting for digital cameras to start using the format back in 2008.

      • indeego
      • 9 years ago

      Any jpg is a better choice than png for photos/scanned realistic images, periodg{<.<}g

        • jstern
        • 9 years ago

        No is not. Not for lossless compression. Also, note that Jpegxr and regular jpeg are 2 totally different technologies. (Adding the name JpegXR to an image format that had nothing to do with jpeg doesn’t suddenly make them technically related.) I should have also mentioned that it saves me a lot of memory from using Tiff. Also noticed that the gallery used a png as a substitute for webp, in the webp vs jpeg comparison.

    • Derfer
    • 9 years ago

    I believe it blurs quite a bit, so that may be why there’s less jaggies.

      • eloj
      • 9 years ago

      Did you even read the blog? I don’t get where you’re all getting that they’re “tooting their own horn”. I thought it fairly obvious from the blog that:

      a) The problem is that webp looks worse than jpeg, so what’s the point of promoting it (other than maybe getting a lossy format with per-pixel-alpha).

      b) That the x264 frame looks better doesn’t matter because, as they point out, we already have formats like jpeg-2000 that beat standard JPEG up and down the block, but have never taken off.

      So it’s not enough to simply be better, and there’s no point if you’re worse.

      The only way this can take off is by google flexing their PR muscles, as tech it’s not good enough.

    • Grigory
    • 9 years ago

    I guess we all know what the P in WebP stands for.

    • jasonalwaysready
    • 9 years ago

    >trollface.webp

    • way2strong
    • 9 years ago

    looks like copyright infringement to me

    • Ihmemies
    • 9 years ago

    When comparing the sample files Google provides:

    Jpeg looks B A D

    They are full of very typical jpeg compression artifacts, which become readily apparent when you even slightly compress the image. I wholeheartedly support this WebP system based on those samples.

    Miles better image quality compared to JPG, while taking up *less* space.

    Fine, if someone is able to provide an even better alternative to JPG than Google and push it to mainstream… until I see it happening, those x264 nerds can whine all they want.

    • leigh crusio
    • 9 years ago

    Nice idea, anything that speeds up the loading of web pages sounds good to me.

    The main issue will be older browsers on mobiles etc, i would probably avoid the new format if it meant i had to check for yet another browser compatibility issue (Apple fix the friggin div scrolling on your iTampon please).

    The only other problem will be older software that does not support the format such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver etc I expect many people are happy with the 3 year old versions and see little reason to update.
    On the other hand a small batch conversion program and some find and replace trickery this could be really easy to implement.

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