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Facebook Tests the Waters with Google’s WebP Image Format

Posted on April 22, 2013 1:30 PM by Rob Williams
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A couple of years ago, Google revealed its “WebP” image format, which shared the same overarching goal as the “WebM” video format: efficiency. While JPEG as a whole is fairly efficient, there’s always room for improvement, and while it might be hard to see the advantage as a normal user, Web services that deliver millions of images per day have been keen to pay attention. After all, a move from one format to another more efficient one could mean thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved each year.

Since its initial unveiling, we really haven’t heard too much about WebP, but it seems that some who operate some of the largest Web services have, such as Facebook. Despite adoption for the format being quite low, Facebook has decided to do a test rollout and see how things fare. We’d imagine that the sample of images converted to WebP on the service is quite small, although a quick test with a number of images on my own Facebook yielded positive results.

WebP

At the current time, only Chrome and Opera officially support WebP format, though Mozilla has been mulling an adoption for Firefox. To test it out, go to Facebook, click on an image so as to view the full thing, and right-click to open it in a new tab. You can then add “.webp” to the end of the file, which will display that version if it happens to exist. If you don’t have any luck, you can take advantage of the examples CNET’s Stephen Shankland offers, such as this stained-glass window: JPG (220KB), WebP (136KB).

Note those file sizes… that, my friends, is why WebP has some real potential.

The problem at the current time is that WebP support is minimal. Chrome and Opera support it, but no image editor (to my knowledge) does. Even on the image viewer side, you’ll be fortunate if your favorite one happens to support it – my favorite, XnView, happens to.

In addition to being more efficient than JPEG, WebP also offers a couple of other advantages; namely, it can handle both transparency and animation. So it could act not only as a JPEG replacement, but a PNG and GIF replacement as well. Google’s climb to have WebP become a proper JPEG successor is going to be long and arduous, but from what we can see so far, it’s got the right stuff.


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