Google Introduces WebP Image Format

Google has created a new image format called WebP, based on the VP8 codec that Google open sourced as part of WebM. Google tested a million images (it’s nice to be Google) and found WebP reduced image size by an average of 39%. With 65% of the bytes transmitted per page made up of images, it could greatly reduce bandwidth, particularly for image-heavy web mapping sites.

Right now there’s no support for alpha transparency, though that is supposed to be in the works. More importantly, web browsers will need to add support for it. Google has already supplied a patch for webkit, and since Firefox and Opera both support WebM I imagine they will add WebP support shortly (somebody has already created JavaScript to enable WebP on WebM enabled browsers). IE will be the trick. Microsoft has said IE9 will support WebM if the user downloads and installs the VP8 codec, and they may well take the same tack with WebP. But IE9 will only be available for Windows 7 users, and even if more organizations move to Windows 7, it’s hard to predict IE9’s uptake speed. I can probably find a dozen machines within stone’s throw of my office that are rocking IE6.