Google reinvents JPEG compression, tells Internet to take a load off

EnlargeHarry Langdon  Getty Images

Google has developed a new open-source image compression algorithm that it says can reduce the size of JPEG images by 35 percent. "However, while Guetzli creates smaller image file sizes, the tradeoff is that these search algorithms take significantly longer to create compressed images than now available methods".

Google is devoting time to further reduce the size of existing JPEG image files with the primary aim of making web pages load faster. Additionally, the company cites a Google Research paper that claims that users found the Guetzli images to be of higher quality than similar and even larger JPEG files created with other methods.

Google has named the new encoder Guetzli, the Swiss German term for cookie.

Google has cautioned that while its algorithm manages to significantly compress JPEG files with minimal loss in visual quality, the drawback is that the compression process requires considerably more time than current methods.




Uncompressed original image (left), libjpeg-encoded JPEG (middle), Guetzli-encoded JPEG (right).

For Google's Guetzli speed boost, researchers developed a test called Butteraugli created to model human vision. The algorithm used by the company allows it to compress JPEGs by up to 35% more than now available methods. "We think this makes the slower compression a worthy tradeoff". Say hello to Guetzli, an open-source JPEG encoder.

JPEG files are one of the most commonly used and popular image file formats in the world.

Smaller file sizes might seem an arcane technology concern, but they're crucial to fast-loading websites. If there is a downside, it's that Guetzli takes longer to produce a compressed image, but the extra time is more than worth it for the saving on file size. Other factors can also be involved, such as the speed of the server the site is hosted on, the code that's used to make and design the page and the file sizes for any images that are used in the site. And although Google compared Guetzli to mozjpeg and another JPEG encoder called libjpeg, there are other options, too. That's a big deal because right now, many web-based image programs (and even stand alone image processing apps) use the libjpeg encoder because it is free and tends to do a good enough job.

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