The divisive move demonstrates how much control Google has over the web’s future.
A contemporary picture format called JPEG-XL, based on the open source PIK technology, is intended to replace the traditional (though still very popular) JPEG format on the web. It is optimised for responsive web environments. JPEG-XL/PIK can offer better quality and a wider range of features while requiring less storage space, but Google’s choice may very well spell the end for the format.
A Google engineer stated in a 2022 remark on the Chromium project that the designers had chosen to remove the JPEG-XL experimental functionality from the open source browser foundation. According to the creator, the “ecosystem” was not enough interested in the format, and the format itself “does not bring sufficient incremental benefits” over current formats. As a result, deleting the JPEG-XL code and flag would ease the maintenance burden on the Chromium project as a whole.
According to Greg Farough, campaigns manager at the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Chromium powers almost 80% of all browser usage globally, including Chrome and Chromium-based, third-party browsers like Edge, Opera, and Vivaldi. Farough claimed that Google is merely asking itself “what Google wants” while it purports to be determining what the ecosystem wants.
Once more, according to FSF, Google is acting in a way that is best “for its own predatory interests,” not for the web. Developers made the JPEG-XL code in Chromium the most “starred” bug in the project’s history when Mountain View chose to deprecate it. Despite what Google claimed, the “ecosystem” seemed to be quite interested in JPEG-XL support and was requesting that the advertising company refrain from acting in the manner that it did.
According to FSF, Google tries to exert total control over the internet in order to advance its own commercial interests. Due to this, the company chose to support the AVIF format rather than JPEG-XL. The AV1 Image File Format, also known as AVIF, is an open-source, royalty-free specification that uses the same compression algorithm for storing individual photos as well as image sequences.
Regarding the JPEG-XL image format, Google’s choice to remove the technology from Chromium is probably going to have a big impact on how the technology develops in the future. The sole competing browser to Chromium’s monopoly at the moment, Mozilla Firefox, has adopted a neutral stance on JPEG-XL. According to the developers, the format doesn’t appear to significantly outperform the competition, but Firefox may embrace it “if usage becomes more widespread.”