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Google kills forthcoming JPEG XL image format in Chromium

And just for balance nixes version 2 of its own format, WebP, as well

A note on Google's bug tracker for the Chromium browser specifies that version 110 won't get JPEG XL support after all.

The Chromium browser project is the open source upstream of what later becomes Google's Chrome browser, along with a host of other browsers including Microsoft Edge, Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave.

The removal of JPEG XL means that none of these above browsers will be able to natively render JPEG XL images, and in turn that effectively dooms the new format, barring the unlikely event of the Mountain View megalith changing course.

The stated reasoning seems less than totally convincing:

We will be removing the JPEG XL code and flag from Chromium for the following reasons:

  • Experimental flags and code should not remain indefinitely
  • There is not enough interest from the entire ecosystem to continue experimenting with JPEG XL
  • The new image format does not bring sufficient incremental benefits over existing formats to warrant enabling it by default
  • By removing the flag and the code in M110, it reduces the maintenance burden and allows us to focus on improving existing formats in Chrome

JPEG XL is not final yet, although it's at version 0.7.0 and the format was frozen at the end of 2020, so it's stable. The format was derived from two earlier image-compression formats: FLIF and Google's own PIK. The latter of these obviously makes the decision even more surprising.

The original JPEG 1 file format was launched 30 years ago by the Joint Photographic Experts Group. Since then, the organization has released multiple improved successor formats, including JPEG XR in 2009, JPEG XT in 2015, and JPEG XS in 2019.

The decision follows long-running legal maneuvering. In February 2022, Microsoft received a patent over a core technology used in JPEG XL, over a year and a half since its previous rejection and despite protests from industry specialists.

In other file format deprecation news, Google has also axed version 2 of its own image and video format, WebP. It open sourced WebP in 2010 and added to its own browsers in 2011. It now says of WebP 2:

WebP 2 will not be released as an image format but is used as a playground for image compression experiments.

Considering the development history notes on the codec's homepage, we suspect that performance considerations may be the issue here, rather than any potential issue over patents. ®

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