WebP: Google’s attempt to change images on the web

Updated: Oct 01, 2010 1:57 AM UTC

Just like its WebM for video, Google's WebP aims to reduce file sizes and speed up delivery of media to browsers.

It is a pretty daunting task that Google is proposing: change the whole web over to a new image format.  .GIF then .JPG and the newer .PNG formats have standardized over the years and aren't likely to change any time soon.  Google today has offered up its Open Source WebP format which is based on its WebM video format that it got when it bought On2 earlier this year.

Google (goog) is certainly offering some benefits with its new WebP format.  First of all the files can be up to 40% smaller.  That helps when you want to download huge images or when you are on a slow mobile connection.  Mobile carriers starting with AT&T (t) and Verizon (vz) have started metered/tiered bandwidth so 40% smaller images can lead to significantly smaller monthly bandwidth.  Added up, the new format could save a lot of money.

Google says that about 2/3rds of the traffic on the web is photos and images.  If that is the case, WebP (40%x66%) could save a quarter of all web traffic, if it became ubiquitous.<!-- more -->

How's the quality?  Google's got a gallery up (though since web browsers can't currently render WebP,  they've been converted to .PNG).  From my standpoint, they look as good as JPEG and Google shows size reductions from 13% to 60%.  Google says that starting with uncompressed images will yield better results.

The bigger question is whether or not the users of the Internet are ready for another image standard, especially one from Google.