Monday, October 04, 2010

The little things in life and what Googles new compression program really means

In an interesting development Google announced a new image compression standard. That on first blush seems to be well outside of what they do in web development, search, and advertising. And almost immediately several tekkies, writers, and general computer 'experts' were heard to question what if anything this development means.

A good example is the attached article from Zdnet by Garett Rogers in which he basically says "Hey what's the big deal". Well what Garett and the other others fail to take into account is just how much a lot of "little" things add up too.

For while it doesn't seem that reducing the size of images would make more than a small impact on the performance of the web that is far from the truth. With only a moment spent looking at the larger picture we can see just how important even little things can be.

For by compressing an image size by only 3% more than the other standards used today you will see that a file now in the range of 100k will suddenly be in the range of 97k. No big deal by it's self. But multiply that savings in file size by the millions of images beings downloaded and it starts to add up. If 1 thousand people download that same file you now save 30k, a million 300k, and so on.

Then you have all the work that a Google, Yahoo, FaceBook, Twitter, Flicker, and of course Amplify have to go through to SAVE these pictures. That work and the resulting space it takes up doesn't come cheap. You're looking at computers and computing cycles to process it, data base programs to manage it, and finally hard drives to store it.

A change like this while small for each transaction makes for savings all along the spectrum of online computing. From how fast your little website loads to how many trillion terabytes of pictures may be stored in the millions of data warehouses out there on line are all effected.

So as in many things it's important to look at the broader picture. For today many of the most important changes and developments we are going to need to take to heart and practice will be like this one. Often we have micro analyzed things in this country thus seeing only a part of the much larger picture.

What effect could one light left on, one aluminum can or plastic bottle recycled, or one slightly smaller image file have on the whole of the world?

Well as this example shows the law of geometric progressions does make little things like this add up. Whole empires have been brought down for, as the poem said, "the want of a nail" and the horse it cost the battle.

So while image compression is a geeky problem that on the surface doesn't seem to have much meaning for anyone but the nerdiest of the nerds it goes to show the importance of little things in life. For not only in computers but in most things in life it's those over looked "little things" that can mean all the difference.

So one bottle or can recycled, one kind word or smile exchanged with a stranger, or a loving word with a kiss and a flower for someone special, are all part of the "little things" in life that taken together make a tremendous difference.

Amplify’d from

In their latest attempt to make the web even faster, Google has devised their own image format to rival JPEG. Since forever, JPEG has been doing a great job of compressing photographic images — it doesn’t support transparency, like other formats, but it does what it was meant to do very well.

Google has determined that JPEG isn’t the best format for that anymore. WebP is a new compression that achieves an impressive average 30% reduction in file size for images. Google will be proposing an update for WebKit that will make viewing those images in a browser actually possible.

Now, I’m not complaining here — anything to make the web faster is good in my books — but I have a question. Why are we worried about fractionally speeding up the web when we live in a broadband world that’s just getting faster and faster anyway? The web is speeding up far more quickly from just network speeds improving than tweaking compression on files that are usually only used to show photographs online.

Sure, Sites like Flickr might see notable speedups — with each page showing several jpeg images typically — but most webpages largely use png or gif images (when you can’t do something in CSS).

I’ll stop whining now. WebP is still cool, and like I said before, anything to make the web faster is good in my books.

WebP: Google's new attempt at speeding up the web


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