These pictures look exactly the same – but they’re not. Because the sign on the right, hypothetically, takes up nearly 40 per cent less space. That’s the version in WebP, Google’s plan to speed up the internet by slimming down its images.
What is WebP? It’s a new graphics format that Google hopes will make file transfers faster than currently possible with the relatively bulky JPEG standard. WebP, like JPEG, is a method of “lossy compression”, meaning that it doesn’t perfectly reproduce images, but gives you a choice between file size and picture quality.
According to Google, images make up about 65 per cent of bytes transmitted across the web today. Any way to reduce that would be hugely valuable for easing Google’s tremendous network burden. That’s a gigantic “would”, though – JPEG is deeply entrenched on the web, and WebP files take about eight times longer to encode. There’s also no browser support yet – which is why our example above is hypothetical.
Of course, native support for Chrome is all but inevitable, which means its presence on other WebKit browsers – like Safari – is equally assured. It’s no easy thing, launching a new file format, but if anyone’s got the scale and the determination to succeed, it’s Google. [Chromium Blog, CNET]