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WebP: Google Hopes to One-Up JPEG with New, 40% Leaner Graphics Format

CNET has the tantalizing, techy scoop on WebP, a new graphics compression format that Google plans to officially unveil later today. Based on WebM, the open, royalty-free video format launched earlier this year by Google, Mozilla, Opera, Adobe, and more than 40 other publishers, WebP aims to take on the ubiquitous JPEG standard of image compression, the first version of which was released way back in 1992.

Like JPEG, WebP is a lossy format, meaning that some image data is lost over the course of compression, though at higher qualities with less compression it’ll still look similar to the eye. WebP’s chief advantage according to Google, however, is that it’s far more efficient. When Google surveyed 1 million sample images across the Web, 90% of which were JPEGs, compressed them in WepP, and compared, they found that WebP offered “the same quality [as the JPEGs] with 40 percent smaller file sizes.” Most excitingly, Google plans to bring native support for WebP to its Chrome browser in “just a few weeks.”

WebP isn’t perfect, however: Encoding WebP image “takes about eight times longer than JPEG.” Then there’s the bigger question of whether WebP can catch on at all:


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. That’s not stopping Google, though, whose goals with WebP are ambitious even if not as ambitious as replacing JPEG.

“The challenges are tremendous,” [Google product manager] Rabbat said. “We foresee it’s going to be a very long conversation.”

Google’s big advantage in pushing WebP, however, is the toehold it has in the form of its browser. Chrome is currently the third-largest web browser, with a market share of over 10%, according to Statcounter’s statistics this past month; presumably, once Google turns on native support for Chrome, support for its fellow WebKit browser Safari won’t be far behind. Wide adoption is far from a sure thing — Microsoft’s JPEG XR format has yet to catch on — but it’s got enough muscle behind it that it shouldn’t be written off either.

Update: More info from Google.

(via CNET)

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