What is WebP and Why Should You Care?

Today Google announced a new and exciting[?] image format, called WebP (pronounced “weppy”), with hopes of improving the web by reducing image sizes and in turn also reducing the massive amounts of data that flow through data centers such as Google’s.

While this likely won’t affect the average internet user any time soon, it has the potential to make significantly important changes, especially with Google’s push and massive web influence. So what, more specifically, is WebP and why should you care? Read on to find out.

What is WebP?

As mentioned above, WebP (pronounced “weppy”) is an all new image format set to replace the aging and bulky JPEG format, currently the king of the web. WebP, like JPEG, is a lossy compression format, so don’t expect images to look any better. However, WebP uses an entirely different compression method based on Google’s open-source VP8 codec, which results in images approximately 40% smaller than their JPEG counterparts.

WebP also utilizes a new container based on RIFF, allowing developers to insert metadata and potentially more future “features”.

Although WebP images will be smaller than JPEG versions, image quality may not be any worse, though we’ll have to wait and see for definitive proof. For a comparison, check out Google’s JPEG vs WebP gallery.

JPEG vs WebP

JPEG vs WebP

Why Should You Care?

The new WebP image format has the potential to really “supercharge” the web. Google estimates that 65% of all data transmitted via web page is images and photos. With the potential ability to reduce that data by nearly 40%, WebP could result in your requested web pages and apps loading significantly faster.

Not only will end user’s pages load faster, but the data centers and web hosts around the world that deliver the massive amounts of content we consume daily will appreciate the dramatically reduced load they have to carry. Google is a prime example of a company that would greatly benefit from such a significant reduction in transferred data, [hopefully] without the loss of any visual quality vs JPEG.

But, taking things a step further, mobile networks will absolutely love the new format. AT&T has had quite a difficult time supporting the massive demand for data the iPhone has put on their network and a new image format such as this could potentially give these carriers the break they need, not to mention dramatically increase mobile web browsing speeds.

Roadblocks

Challenging JPEG’s reign as the web’s choice image format is a massive undertaking, but if anyone can do it, Google can. One of the biggest roadblocks the new format will face will be browser support, followed by user application support. Google has already been talking to other browser vendors about supporting WebP. Chrome is already slated for WebP support in a few weeks, with Safari likely to follow.

As the format is open source, there’s no doubt other major browsers will jump on board as well, especially with Google’s encouragement. However, the next roadblock will, in my opinion, be user application support.

In order for this new image format to really be accepted and begin being used, applications such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, and a whole host of other image and photo editors will have to add support for it as well. Though JPEG is primarily viewed as a web image format, its reach extends far beyond that of the web.

What Do You Think?

WebP is definitely a promising format with the potential to speed up the web for users and reduce the bandwidth burden web hosts suffer, but do you think it can overtake the current king of web—JPEG? Is it worth the trouble to make such a massive change?

Share your thoughts via comment below. Here are also a few additional links for more information.