Achieved 39 per cent gains with tests on a million images

Google wants to speed the web with JPEG-beating image format

Google has unveiled an alternative to the JPEG image format which the company says can save space and speed up web browsing.

Pointing out that the common image formats used on the web were all written more than a decade ago, Google spokesman Richard Rabbat revealed on the Chromium Blog that Google engineers had decided to see if there was a way to tackle JPEG images to make them smaller in order to load faster.

The team planned to use new technology in order to achieve better compression while preserving the same quality and resolution of the images. The result is the WebP image format based on technology within the VP8 video codec the company had earlier open sourced to become a HTML5 web video standard.

In order to test the technology the Google engineers picked a million images at random from the web, the majority JPEGs, and re-encoded them to the WebP format "without perceptibly compromising visual quality". The result was an average of 39 per cent reduction in size.

Google put up a web page to facilitate a comparison of a number of images in terms of quality and file size reductions achieved. The company plans to release a conversion tool as well as facilitating implimentation of WebP natively in applications.

A patch for the WebKit web browser engine used in several browsers supporting WebP is also in development and Google boffins are also planning to add alpha channel transparency.

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