file formats

BPG vs JPEG vs WebP vs JPEG-XR

I was watching this excellent video about image compression, and was reminded of this article. On re-reading it I noticed two things - firstly that I was mostly right, and secondly that this was first written in December 2014 - almost six years ago!

I should say that my biggest mistake was in predicting that Firefox would be the kingmaker. But I was right in predicting that Apple would be the last to support WebP - everyone else has for years, but they've just announced that they will add support soon. And I was partly right in saying that Apple would choose BPG because they had video patents in the pool - they did, but by then BPG had morphed into HEIF. Which is a very similar technology to BPG in that it's part of a video codec, and therefore very efficient and easily hardware accelerated. And Apple is part of the patent pool behind HEIF.

I was also right in predicting patent licensing issues for BPG or HEIF - for example students not being able to upload their coursework because the website didn't support HEIF. Some cast that as a tooling issue, but the slow uptake of HEIF has been because of licensing - tooling has been available for ages. The problem is whether or not you can legally use it. Support is slowly improving, but it's very much a second-class citizen unless you're in an all-Apple ecosystem.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. When HEIF was announced I was tempted to rewrite or update this article, but I never got around to it. Now, in 2020, I think it's better simply to resurface the article with this brief bit of modern context. And having established that, let's get to it...

The Internet loves a good format battle.

For years, we’ve had three image formats on the internet - JPEG, GIF and PNG.

We might be about to get another one.


Subscribe to RSS - file formats