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Google introduces a new image compression format - WebP

     
9:07 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Most of the common image formats on the web today were established over a decade ago and are based on technology from around that time. Some engineers at Google decided to figure out if there was a way to further compress lossy images like JPEG to make them load faster, while still preserving quality and resolution.

As part of this effort, we are releasing a developer preview of a new image format, WebP, that promises to significantly reduce the byte size of photos on the web, allowing web sites to load faster than before.

[googlecode.blogspot.com...]

More information here: [code.google.com...]
11:51 pm on Sept 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I have two thoughts...

1) Perhaps they should have designed in transparency from the start if they intended this format to replace PNG and GIF.
2) Webmasters almost invariably use JPG instead of PNG1 for screenshots, so I'd be surprised the webmaster community suddenly adopts this new standard.

1 256 color PNG provides the best compression for screenshots whilst being almost lossless if the color reduction is done well.

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12:33 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Makes me wonder if this is just another back door for Google data gathering (snooping). What next preferred treatment or penalties for not using it in their search engine? I’d love to try it but with Google’s name attached to it sets off whistles.
1:35 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Makes me wonder if this is just another back door for Google data gathering (snooping). What next preferred treatment or penalties for not using it in their search engine? I’d love to try it but with Google’s name attached to it sets off whistles.


Penalties? The 10 results shown in google is 50% youtube and 50% wikipedia, how can they penalty us webmasters further?
3:28 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Nice to have a new picture format, but looking at the time it took for acceptance of the PNG format, it may take a number of years before browsers and image editors understand the new format and users start to use it on their sites.
4:51 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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... based on technology from around that time. Some engineers at Google decided to figure out if there was a way to...


I remember this wording is extremely similar to that used at the launch of Google Wave or was it Google Buzz. They said that "email" was invented 40 years ago, and we wanted to make it more modern.
5:43 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I can't see Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs stopping the production lines off the next Office and the nex iPad just to adopt the new format in their browsers because "some engineers at Google decided to figure out if there was a way to" save some Kbs.

Once video become the main source of traffic, which flows trough DSL lines, image size become almost irrelevant. Who cares about a 42 or 62 Kb. image if it's just a thumb of a 16 Mb. .flv video?
6:01 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like half the team took the month off in the creative development department at Google again :)
6:06 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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@outland88, sorry the paranoia about Google around here is getting silly. How could someone use an image format to gather data?

@Kaled. Read the linked post. It is a lossy format, so presumeably primarily intended to replace jpeg, not gif or png.
8:00 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Graeme, you are quite right. I did read the linked post but not carefully enough (after midnight in UK). It mentions PNG and GIF but requires careful reading before it becomes clear that the new format is only really intended to replace JPG.

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9:02 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Makes me wonder if this is just another back door for Google data gathering (snooping).


Probably not for gathering per say though I'm sure they will tag the image in some way so that they can spot copies easily.
10:48 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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sorry the paranoia about Google around here is getting silly.


Why is it so hard to understand that almost all the services ever started by Google in recent years and almost all the companies ever acquired by Google have been acquired with the aim of data collection? You may start counting with Google analytics (urchin). So people are right to believe that this is also meant to help their bread and butter business of collecting data one way or another. That is the track record of this creature and it is not a mistake of people around here.
11:20 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Looks like WebP is a single frame version of WebM. Both using VP8. This means that an editor might be able to work on both an image and video. That would be neat -images, animations, and videos all from a single file format. I believe Google could do it successfully. As a web design format this could be great. (Definitely needs an alpha channel to be of any substantial value for web design.)

t occurs to me that this won't be attractive until IE6 and 7 really are history. How could anyone do a page now, using WebP, if IE7 can't read it?

I see where ffmpeg has already got VP8 support, and so VLC and MPlayer will have it. [x264dev.multimedia.cx ]

Seems like recent builds of Firefox, Opera and Chrome already support it

Personally, I won't get excited until GIMP can edit a WebP file. ( couldn't find anything at all googling for 'WebP GIMP', 'VP8 GIMP' or 'VPX GIMP' though.)
11:36 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I don't understand the criticism towards this. Its just a new compression technology, and will most likely one day be beneficial for the web (I asume it will be open sourced and put under a GNU-style licence like WebM that was also sponsored by G).
12:12 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The reason why suspicion of data harvesting, spying, etc. is paranoid is that it is theoretically impossible to exploit an image format for this purpose.

If anyone thinks I'm wrong, then please, explain, in detail, how an image format can be misused in this way.

Kaled.
1:01 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Google have to spider a lot of images every day, so imagine how much power/bandwidth they could save if webmasters adopted this new format. IMO this move is to save Google's resources, but others will benefit as well.
1:55 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Once video become the main source of traffic,

Video may be the main source of bandwidth, I dunno. But that doesn't mean that it's the main source of content, i.e. if you view one video at 500megs, vs what, 5000 pages for the same bandwidth, what's more important? Clearly still the web pages - using bandwidth isn't a good indicator of the importance of this. The age of the web page is still here, and standards that allow web pages to load faster is still a good thing for us webmasters :).
2:02 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It just shows how obsessed Google is now with "speeding up the web" on their terms by "re-inventing the wheel". This is yet another precursor to how well "fast sites" will rank in Google (aka Instant Search). Now we have to wait for browsers and programs (excluding Chrome of course), to catch-up...and they will have no choice to include webP I'm sure.
2:53 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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We really dont need another image format for all internet devices to have to try and support.

If a new image format is to be accepted at all, it must offer real benefit, and seek to completely replace ones we already use.

So, Google should think very hard about image compression before attemping implementing it.


What happened with JPEG 2000? Wasnt that a much improved standard that never got used?
3:37 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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how an image format can be misused in this way

New Image Format will need a new Image Editor that could be "Conveniently" downloaded for FREE and installed on your system. There will be the ones that will fake the new Editor and stuff it with Viruses which will need a new type of Antivirus Software that will "Conveniently" send the Data back only for Research Purposes. The new image Format images will be imbedded into existing documents. Those Documents will need to be Scanned by Antivirus as well.... ok, I will stop

Oh wait... New Image format Image could store the data Identifying the text that is entered into the image by a new Image Editor, based on which the Ads could be displayed more....
6:08 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Finally somebody catches on. There are dozens of way to get data linked to an innocent program.

GraemeP you need not worry you're feeding them enough data with all those MFA pages. Big Daddy will take care of you.
6:27 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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New Image Format will need a new Image Editor
And therein lies the paranoid tin-hat tosh.

No one, and I really do mean no one, is going to start using an entirely new image editor just to support a new format. As for embedded data, any image format that supports meta data will suffice for that (e.g. dare I say it, JPG - yikes).

Also, it is more or less meaningless to scan images for viruses unless or until a fault is found in the image rendering software thus making an exploit possible.

Kaled.
6:32 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Who cares about a 42 or 62 Kb. image if it's just a thumb of a 16 Mb. .flv video?


From TFA:

Images and photos make up about 65% of the bytes transmitted per web page today.


And Also:

This resulted in an average 39% reduction in file size.


So if implemented universally, this would result in about a 25% improvement in speed, on average, for the web as a whole. That's a huge win. Google has made it very clear that they consider the average speed of the web to be a critical business interest.
8:43 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I don't understand the criticism towards this


the paranoia about Google around here


People at WW are increasingly insane when it comes to Google. It's frustrating to see at a forum that was once tech savvy enough to chuckle away wild speculation.

Of course there is no data mining agenda here. I could imagine the concept getting serious replies and support at a NWO conspiracy site... but WW?
9:41 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Of course there is no data mining agenda here.

I agree -- not because I think Google's not interested in datamining, obviously they are, but they have much better ways to do it than some silly trick with image files. Google wants the web to be faster. That obviously benefits them in so many ways that there's no need to look for a hidden self-serving agenda -- the self-serving agenda is obvious.
2:01 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This is probably more about lock-in and indirect data mining than anything else. If, for example, pages with this new format would get a better ranking on Google (due to improved page speed), I could envision webmasters to really consider this new format as default for their sites. But I don't see webmasters doing this without support from the standard browsers (Firefox and IE).

I think that Google (once more) entirely misses the point. The web does not need a new image format, because -as Lexus points out above- a new image format solves a non-problem for end-consumers. When you are on a fast internet connection, say 5 mbps (or 620 KB per second), the difference between 42 and 62 KB (20 KB) is about 0.03 seconds. Even considering a page with 100 images, the saving is just 3 seconds. That's a NON-PROBLEM for end-consumers, and so THEY won't care about it at all. (I agree, that it is a massive issue for Google, or for users on slow connections, but no end-consumer cares about Google's problems.)

In the future the overwhelming majority of web traffic will be video. But looking at new optical transmission technologies there is a good chance that even that will become a non-issue soon. With speeds of 100 mbps and more for each household you will be able to download anything -even HD video files- without significant delay.
4:29 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I think that Google (once more) entirely misses the point. The web does not need a new image format, because -as Lexus points out above- a new image format solves a non-problem for end-consumers.


It's not just about speed, people with smartphones and the monthly data limits they come with will benefit from this.
7:17 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

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people with smartphones and the monthly data limits they come with will benefit from this


Are the same numbers. A 40% reduction off the image page weight means you can save, let's say, 100 Kb if you only browse heavy/non optimized websites (almost nothing in common/optimized/text oriented websites).

I.e. I downloaded just now the ABC news page and it gave me
- 129 Kbs in HTML
- 237 Kbs in images
- 477 Kbs in javascript files
- 283 Kbs in CSS files

Internet Explorer doesn't download the three Flash ads in the website but I suspect them together weight more than 1 Mb.
And, finally, most links above the fold drive to pages with video news.