Is the release of Google's new open source encoder big news for photographers?
The tech giant has excitedly announced Guetzli (meaning "cookie" in Swiss German), a new open source algorithm that will encode high-quality JPEG images much smaller than ever before. They claim a 35 percent reduction in file size, which would have huge implications for us photographers with image-heavy websites. The effects would allow pages to load faster and use even less data. That's good news all around!
How Google has managed this feat is explained in complex detail over on their press release, but the general concept is that the algorithm reduces large amounts of disordered data, which is hard to compress, and puts it into ordered data, which is very easy to compress. There is also a degree of blurring of pixels that are close in appearance. This also helps shave down the size without any visible effects to the structure of the image. As you can see in the sample images provided by Google, Guetzli does perform marginally better than what is already out there.
There is just one snag with these developments, and that comes with speed of compression. By their own admission, Google believes the slower compression is a worthy tradeoff.
Do I think Guetzli will replace your compression workflow anytime soon? Right now, I'd probably say no. Is this development good news for photographers? I'd definitely say it is. Guetzli will inspire further image and video compression research as the world constantly strives to improve on data speeds across the Internet. I'm sure the mobile phone industry will also help accelerate these advancements as better compression means more can be stored.
Selfie addicts rejoice.