BPG: The new image format that could replace JPEG

Written on 17 March, 2015 by Karen Lim Sam
Categories Web Design & ContentTags marketingonline businessonline marketingsmall businesssocial mediaweb design

JPEG has been the image file format of choice for over 20 years, but its days at the top might be numbered thanks to the invention of BPG (better portable graphics). Could this simple new image format be poised to topple the reigning champion?

Synonymous with web-friendly images and used as the default picture format across all kinds of sites and applications, JPEG rules the roost. There have been a number of attempts to replace it with a more modern substitute, but so far the format has proved itself difficult to unseat.

Google and Firefox introduced alternative image formats in the hope they would be picked up, but neither achieved more than moderate success. For JPEGs to be replaced, there needs to be huge user uptake with adoption across the board – that's the only way businesses will risk the potential impact to user experience that switching might cause.

BPG could be the simple file format that inspires such risk-taking. Created by French programmer Fabrice Bellard, who also gave us FFmpeg and QEMU, BPG offers images that look just as good as JPEGs but are smaller in size. Based on a subset of HEVC video compression standard, you can think of a BPG as being similar to a frame taken from a video stream.

It codes digital images using H.265 and has a high compression ratio, which keeps the file size down, and has animation support and native support for 8 to 14 bits (most alternatives only support 8-bit). It also makes it possible for users to include metadata, important for SEO, and supports the same colour formats as JPEG.

The fact that BPG is based on HEVC/H.265 means that any hardware with support for H.265 code can decode the files in hardware. This is another big plus for the format, because it means that devices will be able to understand files using less computing power – perfect for portable tech.

While it may sound as though BPG can outperform JPEG enough to force a change, such a conversion will only take place if software developers get on board with the switch – and there are a few factors that are likely to stand in the way. For example, internet connections are getting so fast that bigger images and slower download speeds are becoming less of an issue for JPEG files. What's more, developers using BPG will need to use special JavaScript code to use the format.

So could BPG spell the end for JPEG? JPEG has survived almost a quarter of a century, which is incredible in the tech world, but there is no doubt that BPG has the capabilities to potentially take its place as the leading choice of image file format. However, for it to have a real chance of taking top spot, browser developers need to get on board and offer built-in support.