New Mozilla, Google photo format technology could close the book on JPEG

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Mozilla, Google and other members of the so-called Alliance for Open media are working on a new photo compression technology that could blow Apple’s rival technology out of the water.

Last year Apple announced that its new photo format and compression technology – called HEIC – dramatically compress photo sizes in order to allow iPhone users to store as many photos as possible.

In response to Apple’s new photo format, the Alliance began working on a new technology that is said to be showing very promising results in its early stages, with Mozilla’s lead research engineer on the project saying it makes images 15 percent smaller than Apple’s novel tech.

But the technology’s potential goes way beyond just compressing images and could well end up addressing all of the shortcomings of the iconic JPEG format which was conceived in the 90’s.

Known for its needlessly large file sizes, JPEG also fells short when it comes to supporting a broader spectrum of colors and a wider range of bright and dark tones.

Moreover, JPEG also has its limitations with new technology such as 3D scene data, bursts of shots, live photos, and panoramas.

Apple’s HEIC might tick all the boxes when it comes to addressing the limitations of JPEG, but because most of today’s computing hardware and software have no ability to display HEIC, the company tends to convert photos into JPEG formats for user-friendly purposes.

Another potential stumbling block for the wider adoption of HEIC could be the fact that software and phone makers would have to file for a license in order to use it, which is not just complicated but expensive as well.

In stark contrast, The HEIC’s new rival is free of patent licensing requirements. 

The alliance – whose top priority is to develop a video compression technology called AV1 – is reportedly readying to move the AV1-based photo format beyond the experimental stage. 

Sources from within the Alliance say the AV1 format will be able to handle graphical elements such as logos, charts, and texts, as well as to shrink a photo while still preserving all its original pixel count.

The AV1 would also have a high dynamic range for better handling bright and dark tones, which could help Netflix – a member of the alliance – to show thumbnail images that better fit its videos.

On top of that, it is understood that the AV1 would also be able to handle live photos, which means it would have an ability to give ‘life’ to an otherwise still image.

However, as mentioned above the technology is still in its infancy and remains in the exploration phase.

If it ever sees the light of day, it would still need to appeal enough to convince people to use it instead of the outdated JPEG which, for all its deficiencies, continues to demonstrate its unbelievable staying power.

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