Taking the next step in world web domination, Google has launched a new image file format that the company hopes will spell the end for industry standards such as TIF, PNG, and particularly for JPEG.
Initially released in a preview version aimed at developers, Google’s WebP (pronounced “weppy”, obviously) uses ‘lossy compression’ (a common method of compressing data that discards small but unnoticeable amounts of the original information, resulting in smaller files) to reduce image file sizes by almost 40% compared to JPEG, while retaining the same level of quality (although the degree of compression is adjustable, allowing for higher quality and file size if desired).
What does this mean in the real world? Essentially, that the mind-numbing time spent waiting for massive JPEG files to download or attach to emails – as well as mucking about with zip folders full of images and file delivery clients – could be considerably reduced.
Having said that, the idea of cutting down on the amount of seconds spent redundantly staring at a screen, waiting for a JPEG to attach to a message in Gmail (remember – world web domination) will be appealing to anyone who deals with a lot of digital images. And that’s a lot of people.
Having said that, if you want to try and use it now, while it’s in the developers’ preview stage, you’ll have to stomach the painful and time-consuming process of using a command line tool (webpconv) to convert all your JPEGs into WebP format. Additionally – Google points out on its developer site, Google Code – as it’s a new file format, you won’t be able to view WebP images in a browser until the relevant company provides support for the format…
Essentially, WebP is a time-saving tool to which, at the moment, you need to dedicate a fair bit of time. But you’ve got to hand it to Google, they’re intent on trying to give us back every spare chunk of time they possibly can, even if it is only two-to-five seconds – Google Instant, anyone?
Tristan Parker is an online reporter/editor and print journalist, writing about technology, e-democracy and music for a number of websites and magazines.