18 March, 2017
"From the practical viewpoint this is very similar to our Zopfli algorithm, which produces smaller PNG and gzip files without needing to introduce a new format, and different than the techniques used in RNN-based image compression, RAISR, and WebP, which all need client and ecosystem changes for compression gains at internet scale", Google Research Europe software engineers Robert Obryk and Jyrki Alakuijala said in a blog post. To accomplish this, Guetzli trades visual quality for a smaller file size at the quantization stage of image compression.
Google has named the new encoder Guetzli, the Swiss German term for cookie.
In the example below, you can see the uncompressed original image on the left, libjpeg (another image compression tool) in the middle and Guetzli on the right.
JPEG compression has several steps, including color space transformation, discrete cosine transformation, and quantization.
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Secondly, Guetzli would seem set to have a significant resource footprint compared to the long-established image compression libraries now in use (mostly over Apache or other Linux-based frameworks).
The underlying compression algorithms behind popular implementations of JPEG have always been lossy; once a web version has been generated from a high-quality original master, the lost pixel information can not be recovered (except, arguably by AI - another field of interest for Google's image researchers). "We think this makes the slower compression a worthy tradeoff".
Guetzli's files are smaller, yes, but it takes the encoder a bit longer than other compression methods to shrink images. If Guetzli does work as well as Google claims, this could potentially be a solid libjpeg replacement for web developers, designers, or photographers.
Slower compression is likely to be an insignificant factor for desktop design environments, but has far bigger usage and resource ramifications for the millions of process threads which run every day over the internet, converting selfies, food shots and other user-generated content into optimised formats for viewing. However, tests have found that people preferred images compressed using Guetzil to those encoded with libjpeg, even when the latter images were slightly larger.
JPEG files are one of the most commonly used and popular image file formats in the world.