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Less bandwidth thanks to WebP

(Almost) every website has images, and (almost) all images are of the format PNG, JPG and GIF - formats that have existed already many years, but have rarely been updated. Because a lot of the bandwidth of the modern web is taken up by images, it is logical to see research in the direction of reducing the sizes of images dramatically. Google has introduced such a new format - WebP - and we are happy to code along by offering a free Magento extension for this new WebP format.

Does it work?

What Google has to say about WebP sounds fantastic: It reduces JPEG and PNG sizes dramatically with percentages that increase everytime - currently a WebP image is about 30% smaller than a JPEG image. Surely, WebP could be fantastic, if it would only be supported by all visitors. The browser support is the real issue here: Ofcourse IE doesn't support it, but other browsers like Safari, Firefox and Opera do not offer support either. At this moment, only Chrome browsers support WebP, and Firefox browsers equipped with a special WebP-extension.

It's not much but already a good kickstart. While only a small number of your visitors are using browsers with WebP-support, it might also be simply a reason to start using Chrome yourself: As maintainer of your own sites, you are probably one of your most frequent visitors but your personal conversion rate is zero. So why not save that bandwidth - just for you.

What do you need?

First of all, our Yireo WebP extension assumes that you are the system administrator of your own webserver, having the ability to install the Google binaries on your own platform. If this is not the case, send this blog to your hosting provider, or forget about the whole thing. Once the Google binaries are installed, the Yireo WebP extension is able to call upon the cwebp program to convert all JPEG images and GIF images into WebP-format. The downside here is that this generates a lot of CPU-activity and disk-activity, so this is best tested on a local environment first. But once all WebP images are in place, they will just sit there and make your websites consume less bandwidth. Smart thinking of Google.

Written by Jisse Reitsma op 12 February 2012

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