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February 15, 2013

Google Starts Pushing WebP Image Format, Cites Terabytes of Bandwidth Savings

Google obviously has a lot of sway on the Internet, with running the most widely used search engine, most popular video sharing site and even a widely used Web browser. So when the company wants to do something like introduce a new image format, there's a good chance that format will take off.

In this case, Google is looking to make its WebP image format a commonly used one on the Internet. An offshoot of the WebM project to promote a royalty-free video codec — something that is very important for HTML5 and WebRTC — the WebP format has the potential to unburden networks and help Web pages load faster with smaller file sizes, according to Google.

Indeed, Google product manager Stephen Konig stated in a blog post that the Chrome Web Store was able to reduce image sizes by around 30 percent when converting JPEGs and PNGs to WebP, amounting to "terabytes of savings every day."

However, even if a format is clearly superior in every way, implementing it isn't so easy. For example, as the Mozilla Corporation has pointed out, adding a new format to the Web means that all Web browsers will have to support it and if widely used browsers like Firefox or Internet Explorer don't support that format, then it won't ever really take off.

Still, though, this is Google; few companies have the potential to change the Web like it does. Unlike the case of WebRTC, though, which adds something completely new to Web browsers, WebP has to take on both PNG and JPEG, the latter of which is more or less the international image standard, being used in cameras, phones, TVs and more.

Meanwhile, the ITU and MPEG just finished the development of the HEVC/H.265 video codec, which also includes a still-image compressed format, which may lead to yet another format war.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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