image formats

FUIF: Responsive Images by Design

Jon Sneyers:

One of the main motivations for FUIF is to have an image format that is responsive by design, which means it’s no longer necessary to produce many variants of the same image: low-quality placeholders, thumbnails, many downscaled versions for many display resolutions. A single file, truncated at different offsets, can do the same thing.

FUIF isn't anywhere near ready to use, but it's a fascinating idea. I love the idea that the format stores the image data in such a way that you request just first few kilobytes of the file and to essentially get a low-quality version, then you request more as needed. See this little demo from Eric Portis that shows it off somewhat via a Service Worker and a progressive JPG.

If this idea ever does get legs and support in browsers, Cloudinary is super well suited to take advantage of that, as they serve the best image format for the current browser — and that is massive for image performance.

Comparing Novel vs. Tried and True Image Formats

Popular image file formats such as JPG, PNG, and GIF have been around for a long time. They are relatively efficient and web developers have introduced many optimization solutions to further compress their size. However, the era of JPGs, PNGs, and GIFs may be coming to an end as newer, more efficient image file formats aim to take their place.

We're going to explore these newer file formats in this post along with an analysis of how they stack up against one another and the previous formats. We will also cover optimization techniques to improve the delivery of your images.

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Evolution of img: Gif without the GIF

Colin Bendell writes about a new and particularly weird addition to Safari Technology Preview in this excellent post about the evolution of animated images on the web. He explains how we can now add an MP4 file directly to the source of an img tag. That would look something like this:

<img src="video.mp4"/>

The idea is that that code would render an image with a looping video inside. As Colin describes, this provides a host of performance benefits:

Animated GIFs are a hack. [...] But they have become an awesome tool for cinemagraphs, memes, and creative expression. All of this awesomeness, however, comes at a cost. Animated GIFs are terrible for web performance. They are HUGE in size, impact cellular data bills, require more CPU and memory, cause repaints, and are battery killers. Typically GIFs are 12x larger files than H.264 videos, and take 2x the energy to load and display in a browser. And we’re spending all of those resources on something that doesn’t even look very good – the GIF 256 color limitation often makes GIF files look terrible...

By enabling video content in img tags, Safari Technology Preview is paving the way for awesome Gif-like experiences, without the terrible performance and quality costs associated with GIF files. This functionality will be fantastic for users, developers, designers, and the web. Besides the enormous performance wins that this change enables, it opens up many new use cases that media and ecommerce businesses have been yearning to implement for years. Here’s hoping the other browsers will soon follow.

This seems like a weird hack but, after mulling it over for a second, I get how simple and elegant a solution this is. It also sort of means that other browsers won’t have to support WebP in the future, too.

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