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Is the WebP Image Format gaining Popularity?

During 2021 at snapWONDERS we have steadily seen an increase on the popularity of the WebP image format. We currently process thousands of jobs daily on image analysis, conversions, and sanitising / regeneration. While it still appears that JPEG image formats is by far the most popular image format type, there is no doubt that there seems to be an increasing popularity on WebP image format files.

What is WebP image format?

WebP is an image format developed by Google and first announced in September 2010 as a new open format for lossy compressed images. Later in 2011 Google extended the WebP image format to support lossless compression images.

WebP supports both lossy and lossless compressions, animations, transparency, colour profiles and embedding metadata.

What’s so great about WebP image format?

WebP image formats are generally smaller than JPEG or PNG format images.

JPEG image files are popular for displaying content on the web and WebP image formats are generally around 25 to 35% smaller however it is important that for image comparisons you employ the SSIM index quality when making your comparison. It just basically means that you are comparing images based upon the same similar quality that is detected visually by the human eye.

PNG image files although are bigger than JPEG, they are still popular for displaying content on the web that requires a transparency part of the image (i.e., where you often want the background content to be displayed through the image when it is stacked up on various presentation layers). Interestingly, WebP also supports the transparency feature and is generally around 25% smaller in size.

Currently from May 2021, it is reported that over 94% of the web browsers support the WebP format. This makes WebP a good contender for the well-known existing image formats considering that it will display on majority of the web browsers.

Ironically, at snapWONDERS all images displayed on the Clearnet or Deep Web (See Browsing Safely) are currently the JPEG or PNG image formats. We’ve just recently created a ticket requesting to look at converting our media content into WebP and considering its viability. This would need to function over the web, as well as on mobiles and this includes the Deep Web on Tor Browsers (via the snapWONDERS onion website).

WebP Logo

How about Metadata? Privacy concerns? Steganography?

This is the question that we’re most passionate about at snapWONDERS. Irrespectively of the media format type the same concerns and questions remains:

Photos and videos may contain personal and private information. Is it being tracked or leaking personal information? Contains metadata or steganography? Have copyrights and digital watermarks been added? Is the digital media in the best optimised format before sharing online? Are you sharing content safely?

The WebP image format may contain metadata and unlike other image formats the WebP format contains an image header that forward declares whether metadata exists within the image itself. This is contrary to the JPEG and PNG formats where you must search for the metadata and no consistency on specifications stating on how they should appear or even what image section they would appear.

WebP metadata formats supported are the EXIF, ICCP and the XMP forms in which its payload is like those contained within the JPEG and PNG counterparts. Due to the increasing popularity on the WebP image format files, snapWONDERS has only recently included support for doing deep analysis on WebP files (See Deep Image Analysis).

Steganography concerns remain irrespectively of the image formats as the same principles apply. For those of you not familiar with "Steganography" – in digital media the goal of steganography is to conceal a file, message, image, photo, sound or video within another file image, photo, or video. This is completely different to hidden metadata because the data itself in steganography is often encoded into the data itself, encrypted so it is unreadable and virtually hidden (See Introduction to Steganography).

WebP and the Future

If the current trend continues then there is no doubt that WebP image formats will overtake JPEG formats (perhaps for new content). The pretext would likely be based on having smaller file content alone for the same image quality. Smaller file content reduces bandwidth and results in a faster web experience for end users if their content is downloaded faster for rending by their browsers. Furthermore, it appears that majority of the browsers since mid-2021 support WebP content.

If you have any other interesting points in relation to WebP especially around metadata and privacy concerns I would be interested in learning more. Feel free to reach out to me. Alternatively you can submit your images for analysis at: check photos or images

Kenneth Springer standing at the cliff edge with an Ocean backdrop

About the Author

Hi there, I'm Kenneth Springer (Founder / Technical Lead / Senior Full Stack Developer / Lead Solution Architect / Engineer / Innovator). All too often I see digital content being shared on social media and online and ponder about privacy concerns, hidden metadata, tracking, copyrights, online safety, steganography and accessibility. I created this website to create awareness and help make a better world online!