Ryan Carson:

Google has used their insanely smart engineers to create an image compression algorithm that’s just as good as JPEG but 39.8% smaller. It’s called WebP and it’s pronounced “weppy”. You can create WebP images in Acorn, Pixelmator, ImageMagick, Leptonica and XnConvert. If you use Photoshop, you can also install the WebP plugin.

The problem is it’s currently only supported by Chrome and Opera, but if all of us in the web community make enough noise, we might succeed in getting it to be adopted by all major browsers.

Ryan’s a smart guy, but I’m curious as to why he’s fighting so hard for WebP, because, bar some slightly superior compression to JPEG—although the quality of said compression is often very subjective—it offers no real benefits and lots of drawbacks.

Jeff Muizelaar:

WebP also comes across as half-baked. 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. These features can still be added, but the longer they remain unspecified, the more difficult it will be to adopt.

Where does that leave us? WebP gives a subset of JPEG’s functionality with more modern compression techniques and no additional IP risk to those already shipping WebM. I’m really not sure it’s worth adding a new image format for that.

I agree. I’d love to know why people think we should care about WebP. I was very happy when PNG was broadly supported, due to the clear benefits in web design, such as alpha channels. But slightly better compression in a format that actually offers less flexibility? That’s an odd thing to fight for.

There are signs things might change, with Google making promises at IO for new features, but even then WebP still feels like a solution looking for a problem that would be better solved with PNG adding another compression stream.