Google targets JPEG with WebP

October 1, 2010 // 8:31 a.m.

Tags: #codec #compression #video-compression #vp8 #webm

Google has figured out another use for the technology it acquired when it bought video compression specialist On2 - and this time it's gunning to replace JPEG.

Announced yesterday, the company is releasing an open-source VP8 implementation, but unlike its WebM codec - designed as a competitor to H.264 for high-quality low-bandwidth video - will be using this version to compete with JPEG and hopefully to speed up the web.

The still-image variant of WebM, called WebP, is based around the same VP8 compression technology, wrapped in a container based on the RIFF standard. Through the magic of predictive encoding, it promises to provide the same or better image quality as JPEG with a forty percent improvement in compression ratios.

In order to increase the likelihood of WebP taking off, Google has released the code for a lightweight decoder library and a command-line tool for converting existing images to WebP under an open-source licence on its Google Code site - and promises to include native support for the format in an upcoming release of the Google Chrome browser.

Google's latest release comes at the head of a long line of attempts to speed up the web, and is joined by the news that the company's URL shortening service, Goo.gl, has become open to all and is no longer restricted to certain Google products.

WebP has a number of hurdles to go before being considered a true replacement for JPEG - not least of which will be getting native compatibility included with all browsers and the ability to save directly into the format from popular image editing applications.

Do you think that WebP sounds like a promising development, or is JPEG too ubiquitous to ever be replaced - no matter how technically impressive its usurpers may be? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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