The media on the internet is growing bigger every day. We have higher quality screens with more pixels now and using high-resolution images on websites became somewhat crucial. Putting a bigger image means it will take additional space and require additional bandwidth to transfer to the user. This is currently resulting in performance loss; which is being balanced by the advancing technology in storage and network. However, moving on to a new image algorithm might bring additional performance to websites.
A better compression brings performance
WebP is an image format that results in file sizes between %25 and %35 lower compared to the traditional, long-living JPG files. In addition, it supports alpha channels like PNG and animations like GIF. It was developed by Google; now working on developing WebP 2.0. WebP image files are being used on a portion of the websites as a replacement for JPG and PNG files. WordPress currently does not support WebP images. However, there are plenty of plugins that automatically convert images to WebP format.
The WordPress team has been discussing bringing WebP image format natively to WordPress for a while. The idea was proposed before, but it was canceled. Now, the team has announced they are discussing it again. You may think that this is an obvious performance uplift for the websites and there shouldn’t be any reason not to put it inside WordPress, but you are wrong. There are two main concerns: technical and philosophical.
The philosophical concerns come from the idea’s conflict with WordPress development. One of WordPress’ philosophical statements tells that “Developers should make smart design decisions and avoid putting the weight of technical choices to end-users”. This means WordPress should ship this feature at least with a turn-off button, and turned off by default.
Additional versions of images in storage
The technical concerns come from the website owners who own websites with a lot of images. Currently, a complete replacement of JPG with WebP is not possible due to possible compatibility issues among every device. For this reason, current WebP solutions for websites have to store both JPG and WebP versions of the images; if the visitors’ systems support WebP, it delivers the WebP version. This results in additional disk space requirements for faster loads. However, if a website already fills much of its storage space, having additional versions of the images might cause serious problems. That’s why the owners of the websites are concerned about transitioning to WebP images. The developers have begun to research the impact of the WebP images on storage as well, which is greeted positively by the community.
We don’t know what decision will come out of those researches and discussions. But we can clearly see that the WordPress team is pretty cautious about possible problems and they are not rushing it.