Google Increases JPEG Compression by 35% Without Loss in Image Quality

EnlargeHarry Langdon  Getty Images

A new JPEG compression algorithm doesn't sound as exciting as a method of enhancing small images like fictional forensics investigators in television shows do all the time, but the ability to reduce file sizes without requiring updates to browsers is probably more useful, particularly in the near future. The smaller image sizes would help pages load faster, and could even allow users on a data plan to use less of their allocation loading images. It aims to improve on existing JPEG encoders by introducing a highly optimised multi-stage compression process that can retain more detail than current algorithms.

Although there are several different ways to adjust the size and quality of a JPEG, Google's Guetzli (German for "cookie") is all about the "quantization stage of compression".

Furthermore, Google claims that Guetzli does this compression without compromising on image quality.


Uncompressed original image (left), libjpeg-encoded JPEG (middle), Guetzli-encoded JPEG (right). This code is supposed to close the difference between the standard JPEG psychovisual modeling and the one that's used by Guetzli. It serves up images that look great, but their file size is 35 percent smaller. That may seem like a deal-breaker but because of how well it performs in the quality department, Google feels the slower compression time is a worthy trade-off. This means that JPEG images weigh less and load times for websites will definitely get a boost. The algorithm used by the company allows it to compress JPEGs by up to 35% more than now available methods. The company performed experiments where images of equal file size were shown to study participants who consistently prefered the imaged compressed using Guetzli. The beauty of this project is that it creates JPEG images the world already uses. 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.

Guetzli is the product of Google Research Europe, and has been released under the Apache open source license.

The downside to this methodology is that compression takes significantly longer than now available methods.

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