Facebook tries WebP image format

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Billions of images are uploaded to Facebook each day. With this huge number, the social network has to recompress all of the photos being uploaded to reduce storage costs and speed up its website. However, this move lowers image capacity and sometimes leads to slower loading times.

In a bid to address the issue, Facebook is pioneering the use of an obscure image format called WebP instead of the widely supported JPEG format. Although image sizes will be slashed by 25 to 35 per cent, the new format still has the same quality as a JPEG image.

WebP is search giant Google’s static image counterpart to its WebM video format. The compression technology behind the formats is nearly identical, but WebP’s features are tailored specifically to static images. However, the format is currently only supported by compatible browsers such as Opera and Chrome. Firefox and Safari cannot process these images.

In a short test, Facebook’s use of WebP irked many people who are using browsers not compatible with the format, as they encountered problems in saving and viewing their downloaded and edited pictures. It is not surprising that many internet users are against it.

Overall, the change in image format looks very advantageous to Facebook, as it could increase speed and boost the number of uploaded images on the social network. However, due to its limitations, the change to WebP could backfire as most users don’t exclusively use Facebook.

In an effort to make the format more accessible, Google is developing technology that helps web servers transmit WebP images to internet browsers that are compatible with the format.