Google shows off new image format

Search engine Google has been showing off a new image format that it hopes will kill off the Jpeg.

Dubbed WebP, Google hopes will make the web faster by cutting files sizes of images without affecting quality.

Writing in its bog , the search engine outfit published photos and images account for 65 per cent of the bytes transmitted by websites.

“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,” the bog writes.

Its tests show that using a million randomly selected images from the web, re-encoding images as WebP resulted in an average file size reduction of 39 percent.

WebP is lossy, which means you can chose between having decently looking files or super fast ones. It is more helpful for those who want to shove their photographs on the web rather than simple images that are more efficiently encoded as a GIF or PNG.

The Jpeg standard is going to be difficult to kill off. It is everywhere and has seen off competition from other standards which have tried to replace it. Jpeg 2000 was a good bet and was even backed by the standards body behind the original, but was killed off by the older version.

What might be the killer app for this standard is the Chrome browser. Google can see significant savings in bandwidth and load times by checking for browser compatibility and then serving WebP images instead of JPEGs whenever appropriate. Google said that it will have support for WebP in an upcoming release of Chrome.