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Mozilla Rejects WebP Image Format, Google Adds It 262

Posted by timothy
from the rose-by-any-other-raster-based-representation dept.
icebraining writes with a link to Ars Technica's look at the recent rejection of WebP by Mozilla Developer Joe Drew."Building mainstream support for a new media format is challenging, especially when the advantages are ambiguous. WebM was attractive to some browser vendors because its royalty-free license arguably solved a real-world problem. According to critics, the advantages of WebP are illusory and don't offer sufficient advantages over JPEG to justify adoption of the new format. (...) 'As the WebP image format exists currently, I won't accept a patch for it. If and when that changes, I'll happily re-evaluate my decision!' wrote Mozilla developer Joe Drew in a Bugzilla comment.'" However, as the article explains, Google sees enough value in WebP to add it as a supported image format for Picasa.
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Mozilla Rejects WebP Image Format, Google Adds It

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  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:32PM (#36234590)

    Why do we need yet another image format?

    • by errandum (2014454)

      We don't, especially now that most patents related to image compression are past us.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples (727027) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:22PM (#36235020) Homepage Journal
      Anonymous Coward wrote:

      Why do we need yet another image format?

      If a new format 1. has an alpha channel, 2. has demonstrably better SSIM than JPEG, and 3. preserves Exif and ICC metadata, then it's superior to JPEG. In theory, WebP should have demonstrably because it's based on VP8 keyframes, while JPEG uses much the same technique as MPEG-1 keyframes. But it lacks an alpha channel, and it lacks Exif and ICC.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by enoz (1181117)

        JPEG uses much the same technique as MPEG-1 keyframes. But it lacks an alpha channel, and it lacks Exif and ICC.

        JPEG supports a plethora of metadata including Exif, IPTC, XMP and according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] also supports ICC.

      • by amliebsch (724858)

        But we already have a new format that does all that, it's called JPEG XR.

        • WebP has a reference implementation whose license is compatible with free software licenses. JPEG XR, on the other hand, has patents licensed under terms that do "not provide the freedom that the GPL requires" according to the Software Freedom Law Center. And the copyright license of its reference implementation, the HD Photo Device Porting Kit, is not compatible with the GPL or any other copyleft license. Therefore, a JPEG XR decoder and GPL code cannot be combined to form one larger program. See Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
      • by DittoBox (978894)

        Actually, JPEG doesn't lack ICC, or EXIF. Every camera that makes JPEG files embeds EXIF. Any suitable photo editor can embed ICC profiles as well.

        I'll agree that the lack of alpha channel sucks, and that JPEG's lossy compression can be improved, but it's simply untrue that neither EXIF nor ICC can't be embedded. I do it all the time.

      • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        A lossy format with alpha channel is something I've been wishing for for years now.

      • Opera Turbo uses WebP to compress images on low bandwidth connections

        http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2011/04/opera-turbo-uses-webp-to-compress.html [blogspot.com]

        WebP looks better than JPEG at high compression ratios where JPEG has noticeable blocking artifacts.

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      Because if the WebP can indeed offer a better compression ratio to current format, Google will be very happy to save bandwidth (e.g. from Picassa) and move a small cost onto you, the consumer (more CPU cycles?). While it is not going to hurt you very much, it can save Google some large pile of money.

      Last, replace in the above Google with "raster-image content provider" and the above still stand true.

    • Personally, I won't care until I see an image that I can't view. /then/ I'll get upset.
      It's a lot like SVG glyph-fonts: Until you run into it /not/ working, you don't care.

      That being said, it's not like it's a big deal to implement webp in FF: The webm decoder will decode it, provided you change the webp "wrapper" to a webm one... so there's a JS script out there to add support for it right now.
      Seems like it'd be just a handful of lines of code to add it natively, then there'd be no issues....

    • by kvezach (1199717)
      And if they're going to implement another image format, why don't they do it right and pick some form of embedded zerotree wavelet [rice.edu]? Those beat the pants off JPEG [rpi.edu] (and most other DCT codecs) while being perfectly progressive (i.e. you can truncate the picture data itself at any point and get the same result as you would if you had compressed to that size).

      Instead we'll get yet another block coding format, for what? So that Google can use it to leverage WebM?
  • by suso (153703) * on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:34PM (#36234598) Homepage Journal

    New file format's can't cure something that user education requires.

  • Why NOT? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bradgoodman (964302) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:35PM (#36234616) Homepage
    That mere fact that I am reading this article indicates that WebP has enough momentum to potentially be useful. The fact that other browser(s) are adding support is even more relevant. So the real question I believe is what wouldn't they add it? It's not costing anything, and (apparently) it's already been developed. So what's the issue?!
    • Re:Why NOT? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:49PM (#36234740)

      Quote: "Adopting a new image format in Web browsers is a big decision. Once a format becomes a part of the Web, it will have to be supported in perpetuityâ"adding overhead to the browserâ"even if it largely fizzles and only gains a small niche following."

      It's akin to if Web browsers were required to support failed formats like ANIM or HAM or IFF. In other words adding support for WebM wastes space in the program (and computer memory).

      And I'm probably going to get modded -1 for comparing WebM to "failed formats" like HAM, but I think it's pretty obvious that WebM is destined for the same place as VESA and HD-VHS landed. Nice idea..... not adopted by the general public.

      • Re:Why NOT? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Snaller (147050) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @10:05PM (#36235268) Journal

        "but I think it's pretty obvious that WebM is destined for the same place as VESA and HD-VHS landed. Nice idea..... not adopted by the general public."

        The public have no idea about graphics formats, nor do they give a crap.
        If google were to make a ton of source code examples in everything from C to Visual Basic to Lisp or DOS showing how to read, write and save, and make many free programs to do conversion, then programmers might start using them.
        Of course its google, and they rarely do things like that right.
        So you are probably right, its going to die.

        • "but I think it's pretty obvious that WebM is destined for the same place as VESA and HD-VHS landed. Nice idea..... not adopted by the general public."

          The public have no idea about graphics formats, nor do they give a crap. If google were to make a ton of source code examples in everything from C to Visual Basic to Lisp or DOS showing how to read, write and save, and make many free programs to do conversion, then programmers might start using them. Of course its google, and they rarely do things like that right. So you are probably right, its going to die.

          Even if Google made source code available for it for the whole world in all the languages conceivable, you still need to get people to generate images in it. Even if ever image generation/modification software had the option to save to WebP, the vast majority of users would still save the images to JPEG because (as we have discussed above) they don't give a crap about image standards and they know what JPEG is and that it works. They won't care if another format is ever-so-slightly-better and will stick wit

      • This article is about WebP, not WebM. Firefox does very much support WebM, just as do Chrome, Opera, Safari and IE (these last two browser require the WebM codecs to be installed, all the other just work). And YouTube is serving WebM video (among other formats).
      • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        And I'm probably going to get modded -1 for comparing WebM to "failed formats" like HAM, but I think it's pretty obvious that WebM is destined for the same place as VESA and HD-VHS landed. Nice idea..... not adopted by the general public.

        I'm assuming you mean VESA Local Bus, because VESA is alive and well. Well alive anyway; they're still as bone headedly stupid as ever. Actually on second thoughts you probably did mean VESA and you're right.

      • by qubezz (520511)

        .... I think it's pretty obvious that WebM is destined for the same place as VESA and HD-VHS landed. Nice idea..... not adopted by the general public.

        You mean VESA graphics modes? The ones supported by every video card since ~1998? The ones used in Windows Vista-7 for graphical setup and video fallback? If you like installing a Linux distro with the graphical user interface, you should be thanking the Video Electronics Standards Organization for making a common way of talking to all video cards.

    • Re:Why NOT? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:51PM (#36234760) Homepage Journal

      Because it's not got a lot of momentum at this point, and other than compression quality it appears to be an inferior of JPEG - it lacks, apparently, the same degree of metadata.

      If there's a major problem with the web right now it's the number of half-assed ill-thought out technologies that are already in there and that have to be supported permanently because someone out there might be still using it - and in many cases, they are, from GIFs to frames. Mozilla and Microsoft just threw IndexedDB into the mix, just to add another thing to fuck things up for another decade.

      So yeah, I have to agree with Mozilla in this case that WebP shouldn't be accepted. Less is more.,

    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      By that logic, Bennet Haselton's regular forays into circular logic should be on the front cover of the NYT.
    • by tyrione (134248)

      That mere fact that I am reading this article indicates that WebP has enough momentum to potentially be useful. The fact that other browser(s) are adding support is even more relevant. So the real question I believe is what wouldn't they add it? It's not costing anything, and (apparently) it's already been developed. So what's the issue?!

      Not it doesn't. It means you read articles on Slashdot--a site that represents probably 0.00001% of all Internet users interests.

    • It is on Slashdot not because it has a lot of momentum, but because it is being heavily pushed by Google. If it were anybody other than Google, we wouldn't still be talking about WebP. That, and Google makes a browser so at least one browser will support it.

      This isn't much different if Microsoft tried pushing their own format.

      I understand what Google is saying about licensing, but in the real world it won't make much difference.

      PNG was introduced in a similar fashion to work around GIF legal issues. PNG is

      • by Dracos (107777)

        And to exacerbate PNG adoption, there are two animated derivatives that aren't supported across all browsers. Mozilla supports their APNG, while everything else (except IE, of course) supports MNG. I'd sure like to make animations with alpha and have it be visible in all browsers (except IE, of course).

    • by qubezz (520511)

      That mere fact that I am reading this article indicates that WebP has enough momentum to potentially be useful.

      Google is the one that is pushing Webp [cnet.com]. They acquired the video compression codecs through their takeover of on2 technologies [techcrunch.com] for $106 million. Duh that they are going to add it in their cloud services.

      You are reading that the largest open source web browser says no, which would be a lower hurdle than than trying to get it supported in Internet Explorer (which it won't anytime soon, because WebP in HTML5 is not only a Adobe Flash video replacement, but also a Microsoft Silverlight video replacement). Those

    • by Xest (935314)

      Because people using old unupdated browsers will then fail to see the web properly as a new loosely supported format enters the fray.

      People think of web browsers as IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and the other desktop browsers, but they forget how many people are using older mobile phones and so forth, browsing the web on older tablet devices, browsing it on TVs and devices plugging into TVs with web browsers and so on that simply may not be updated anymore. By introducing a new image format you've got to reco

  • Is there any actual downside to including it? Bloat, perhaps, but doesn't Firefox already support obscure/archaic formats like APNG, PPM and XBM? It might be wasted effort, so I can understand not making it an active task, but refusing to add any patch adding it seems... dumb.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No it is not dumb. Other than bloat there are support and security considerations. If it doesn't improve the status quo significantly why would you want to add work to already overloaded developers? Any code new code path can potentially add an exponential maintenance burden, slowing down future development. If it becomes an important format then the maintainer who rejected the patch has stated he is willing to re-evaluate letting the patch in. You really only ever want code in a project that you know

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      7 years from now while that code is still living in every browser and nobody uses the format anymore someone finds an exploit and makes everyone's homepage goatse
  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @08:43PM (#36234692) Journal
    It is somewhat interesting to see an image format brought to the table without something basic like support for EXIF storage of some kind, or some feature(however crudely hacked on) that makes it clearly superior to JPEG(like an Alpha channel).

    I can understand that somebody the size of Google probably gets real worked up about how to shove more images through slightly less bandwidth; but that actually seems like kind of a niche concern: For icon/branding/graphic design purposes, much of the heavy lifting is done by lossless(for clean, non-crunchy look); but small because of limited color palettes, broad areas of flat color, etc. images. That's mostly GIF and PNG, with some Flash and SVG.

    For everyone from people who barely care to people who care how it will look as an 8*10 or a desktop background, you have JPEGs of various sizes and compression levels. On the low end, people will put up with some seriously grain-tastic shit, so long as it loads fast. Anybody who is too good for JPEG entirely is probably either slamming around some fancy print-ready flavor of TIFF, or storing whatever flavor of RAW their preferred camera back spits out.

    I'm just not seeing the under-served niche here.
    • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @10:34PM (#36235450)

      Trying to unseat JPEG is akin to the various attempts at unseating MP3. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. There's just too much support for JPEG out there. Nobody's going to support a second file format just because; they rather spend the development time enhancing their product in more meaningful ways.

      Even Apple had to cave when it came to MP3 (they wouldn't sell it, but the iPod had to play it). I can't imagine Google could possibly do any better with JPEG.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        Or PNG unseating GIF.

      • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Informative)

        by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @01:22AM (#36236264) Journal

        Even Apple had to cave when it came to MP3 (they wouldn't sell it, but the iPod had to play it).

        Your history is backwards:

        The iPod first launched on October 23, 2001, and it played MP3s just fine at that time.

        The iTunes Music Store opened on April 28, 2003. Prior to this, Apple didn't sell content for the devices.

        Apple never "caved," they simply built an MP3 player which happened to be successful. Later on, they started selling content for it (in the arguably more space-efficient AAC format).

      • by Timmmm (636430)

        It could happen, but it needs to be *actually better*. To even have a chance of succeeding I'd say a new image format needs:

        1. Alpha channel support.
        2. Lossless *and* lossy compression.
        3. Should be suitable for photos (JPEG), diagrams (PNG), and mixtures (e.g. screenshots of web pages). Don't tell me this is impossible - it's not.
        4. Support decoding of subsets of the image (i.e. tiling).
        5. EXIF.
        6. Good support for multiple colour spaces.
        7. Progressive decoding.
        8. Better compression than JPEG.

        WebP fails on

  • I won't accept a patch for it. If and when that changes, I'll happily re-evaluate my decision!"
    Quality community driven, bottom up open source software at work!
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      A few days ago Slashdot posted a story about how Groups can make very, very poor decisions, especially when religious-like battles are involved (JPEG vs. WebP). You need someone at the top to make educated decisions based upon practical concerns ("Can Mozilla afford to support a JPEG v.Webp war?") rather than have a wikipedia-style community squabble break out.

  • by bonch (38532) *

    Picasa? I would think the stronger indicator of support would be Chrome, but then again, Google's schizophrenic position on codec support ("We're rejecting H.264 video in the name of openness! Now enjoy the bundled Adobe Flash plugin and MP3/AAC playback.") makes them difficult to gauge.

    • by mrxak (727974)

      They're not that irrational. They want to kill H.264 because they're not in the patent pool for it. Flash helps them do that, even if it is the nuclear option.

  • WebM has a clear advantage when the alternative is not letting your users view video on pages that serve WebM. Other than that, evaluating the advantages of one video format versus another is up to the video producer not the video consumer.

    • by imroy (755)
      WebM support is in Firefox 4. We're talking about WebP here, Google's image format based on the intra-frame coding of VP8 (the video codec used in WebM). Try to keep up.
  • Seems Solid (Score:5, Informative)

    by farnsworth (558449) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:07PM (#36234898)
    Seems like perfectly solid reasoning to me:

    Currently, it only supports a subset of the features that JPEG has. It lacks support for any color representation other than 4:2:0 YCrCb. JPEG supports 4:4:4 as well as other color representations like CMYK. WebP also seems to lack support for EXIF data and ICC color profiles, both of which have be come quite important for photography. Further, it has yet to include any features missing from JPEG like alpha channel support.

    [...]

    Every image format that becomes “part of the Web platform” exacts a cost for all time: all clients have to support that format forever, and there's also a cost for authors having to choose which format is best for them. This cost is no less for WebP than any other format because progressive decoding requires using a separate library instead of reusing the existing WebM decoder. This gives additional security risk but also eliminates much of the benefit of having bitstream compatibility with WebM. It makes me wonder, why not just change the bitstream so that it's more suitable for a still image codec?

    WebP, by Jeff Muizelaar [blogspot.com].

  • alpha transparency (Score:3, Informative)

    by edxwelch (600979) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:11PM (#36234944)

    If webp supported alpha transparency it would be useful. png is a lossless format and therefore much bulkier. A png is normally 5 times bigger than jpg image. But jpg doesn't support transparency

    • by Derek Pomery (2028) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:19PM (#36235004)

      Amen. When I first heard about this format I was excited. I thought finally we had a lossy image format that would have an alpha channel. I was shocked to discover this was not the case, that it was basically just a static frame of video, with nothing else.

      It offers little to no advantage over JPEG.

      I'm still bitter over JNG getting killed off. It is possible to hack around the lack of a good JNG using 2 JPEGs (one for the alpha) plus a bit of javascript and a , and this can even be styled in CSS with mozElement and the slightly less flexible webkit alternative. But I have to say, overall, I'm cheering for Microsoft's apparently open JPEG XR standard.

      Never thought I'd be saying *that* :)

      • Dammit, I don't post here enough to remember that plain old text does not escape tags. that should have been

        "plus a bit of javascript and a <canvas>"
      • by macshit (157376)

        Hmm, nice to see that JPEG XR actually supports some decent HDR pixel formats (OpenEXR [openexr.org] 16-bit float RGB, and the Radiance [lbl.gov] shared-exported format) -- IIRC, its progenitors at MS were notably inferior in this area.

        Now if they can only get the patent situation sorted to everybody's satisfaction, and some good free libraries get written, it might actually be a contender!

    • Google already stated that alpha transparency is going to be added.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        What kind of standard does "...going to be added" make for?

        Alpha is just another color channel. What the fuck is the big deal that it isnt already implemented? This is one of Googles big problems. They are treating these formats like they treat just about everything else they do... perpetual beta.

        What developer wants to constantly be checking up on googles progress, and who the fuck wants their own patch schedules partially dictated by googles meanderings? I mean what the fuck... Alpha in WebP will be d
        • First of all, Google is not even pushing this format. All they've done is shared their early work with us. It's "us" who decided to submit patches to Mozilla and the like, so all this overreacting you're doing here isn't even necessary. Had Google actually released this and advertised it, pushed it, and tried to have it used everywhere, then I would see why this discussion is even happening at all.

          All I see is a bunch of people overreacting to some random project that someone at Google put together.

          • by Rockoon (1252108)
            Google has released WebP and has advertised it, and are even so bold as to give newbie advice on how they can convert their entire image libraries to WebP.

            All I see right now is a twit that doesnt want WebP to already be a failure.
  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @09:25PM (#36235046)
    How about baseing such as decision on considering what users want / need / might find useful, rather than some developers opinion of whether the technology has merit. Failing all that, because it gives users and web content creators an open source alternative choice?
  • by Lifyre (960576)

    The entire premise of the article is that Firefox, a web browser, didn't add support for a new fringe picture format, something that isn't really the purpose of the program but they're falling behind because Picasa, a program exclusively for showing pictures did? I should think an image program would be the first to add a new image format.

    Am I the only one who thinks the author is an idiot?

  • "However, as the article explains, Google sees enough value in WebP to add it as a supported image format for Picasa."

    s/Google/Microsoft/
    s/Picasa/Windows/

  • Google will create and maintain it and it can be any kind of file at all--image, document, movie, slide deck, virtual machine HDD image, whatever. There will be a few bytes at the beginning of the file to tell Chrome how to deal with it. It will integrate nicely with all of Google's services. Everyone else can either support it or not.

  • That google makes their own browser? At this point, they can add support for any feature or format that they want and then they can start using that feature or format on youtube or piccasa or one of their other sites and basically strong arm other browsers to support that feature because google controls some of the most popular sites on the internet. I could see how this might turn into an issue especially if chrome takes a sufficiently large chunk of the browser market.

  • by TheSync (5291) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @02:16AM (#36236426) Journal

    1) We know that JPEG 2000 (part 1) is most likely truly freely licensable. It was designed this way, and has been around for many years and used by deep pocketed companies for digital cinema, this I suspect any submarine patents would have surfaces by now. I can't say the same for WebP, WebM, or even H.264.

    2) JPEG 2000 can have whatever color components you want. If you want a component to be an alpha channel, that is great, do it.

    3) JPEG 2000 was developed by and international standards organization, so you know a lot of eyes saw the specification during development to ensure it is a well defined standard.

    4) JPEG 2000 has a lossless option.

  • Web P was weird from the start. Somebody said "hey, we can just rip that part out and call it a still image format". It's some google programmers hello world that crossed some PR guys desk...

    Still, it's further proof of my motto... The earliest codes were based on decades of amazing research and development, and frankly, did everything right. They were designed for transparent reproduction at high bit rates, not low quality junk, so there's room for alternatives there. But across a wide range of scenar

  • I'm by no means an image expert, so read this as a question and not a suggestion: why isn't this implemented as a compression format for TIFFs? My understanding is that a TIFF is basically a bunch of metadata wrapped around a chunk of image data. I mean, look at the output of tiffinfo sometimes. I have a hard time believing WebP could require metadata than TIFF already supports, but you could add new private fields if it does. Given that you already have a (to my eyes) perfectly usable container, it seems like a waste not to use it.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @11:20AM (#36239232) Homepage Journal

    pretty much all his argument could have been used on why NOT to use Mozilla when it was new.

    Something that's being overlooked here is size. WebP is about half the size of an equivalent Jpg.

    Of course, ti really won't go too fer until the add the alpha ability.

    After which I expect it to make some quick jumps on the way to becoming the standard.
    For no other reason then every cloud based storage is going to want users to use it.

    I have 40+Gigs of Jpgs. We aren't even very active with the picture. Some people know seem to be constantly taking picture, so I'm sure there have 100's of Gigs worth of Jpgs. The value add of cutting the image size in half is huge. Not just for storage, but for transferring from smart phones.

    It also occurs to me that cutting the image size in half would be desirable form telco that support smart phones on their systems.

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