Google has improved the quality of WebP, an image format it promises will speed up the Web--if the company can just convince people to use it instead of JPEG.
WebP, unveiled last year, is a still-image variation of the company's open-source, royalty-free WebM video technology. Google's sales pitch: with its newer compression technology, Web pages will load faster and less network bandwidth is necessary compared to using JPEGs.
Now the company argues that it's improved quality of WebP images through more elaborate encoding software. It can, for example, concentrate its data on the complicated parts of images. And a "fancy upsampler" smooths diagonal edges that otherwise would be prone to artifacts. The improvements don't require new decoding technology, too.
"WebP's compression algorithms have been significantly improved while remaining completely compatible with the previous releases," said Google product manager Richard Rabbat and programmer Pascal Massimino in a blog post last week. Better quality compression means an image can look better at a given file size or match earlier quality without taking up as much storage space and network data.
WebP is one example of the Google obsession to rebuild the Web in faster form. Google is working on many others, ranging from reworking basic communcations protocols with SPDY and preloading some Web pages in the Chrome browser to penalizing slow Web sites in its search-ad business. Another technology, called SSL False Start, cuts the time it takes to set up a Web connection--by 30 percent, the company said at its Google I/O conference.
WebP has major challenges, though. The biggest is convincing backers of the universally supported and very well understood JPEG, but there are others, too: persuading browser makers and Web developers to use WebP, adding features to match JPEG or improve on it, and assure tech companies that they can feel confident in relying on something that's not standardized.