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Mozilla, you’re killing me…

firefox-asleepIn 2010 a Firefox user submitted a bug to the Mozilla developers requesting that they implement WebP (the most powerful image format in the world) into Firefox. Now in its fourth year, even though Mozilla identified this as an “important, high-profile subject” on which they have “image codec specialists“ on the case who have been for over two weeks completing their experiments and that, as always with these teaser statements, we should expect something imminently. And imminence has slid by again.

What I want from Mozilla is to implement the codec. What I’ll settle for is, as they appear not to be inclined to implement the format at least in its present state, to just close the bug thread with a “WONTFIX” flag so that the rest of us who are concerned with this image format’s adoption can stop crossing our fingers Firefox will get it and realize that it ain’t happening indefinitely, or at least not until certain specific things have changed. For whatever reason Mozilla finds neither path appealing.

It’s particularly frustrating because WebP would improve the world except not being supported by Firefox presents a major pitfall and obstacle to its ubiquitous adoption. I’m not alone in believing that if Mozilla adopted it, Microsoft and Apple would follow suit.

Even though only 30% of the browsers visiting MobilityDigest support the format, we serve Chrome and Android visitors (roughly 30% of our traffic) images on the site in WebP instead of jpeg, gif or png, saving roughly 30% per image (and Pagespeed, another Google technology we use, reduces oversized images to the sizes specified in the HTML, even more savings).

On average, 60% of a given webpage’s bytes are comprised of images, so it’s saving us maybe 13% of transport. Not much. But with Firefox, Safari and IE on board, we wouldn’t even need to convert to WebP and it would take us a fifth less storage and bandwidth and time on pageviews to deliver the site to you.

The importance of that to us is amplified as 40% of you are using mobile devices, and the longer it takes for our site to hit your screen, the less likely you are to stick around and come back, and the more data of your monthly quota we eat up. For sites that are image-heavy, like Facebook which adopted WebP, that adds up. Netflix is working on implementing WebP, most of Google’s websites use it, and CDNs possibly including Akamai are interested in the efficiency.

Regardless of how this bug thread plays out with Mozilla (and feel free to visit Bugzilla to chime in, it’s open to the public), I think it’s unfortunate that a popular browser regarded by many as always being on the cutting edge of performance can sit on something like this for years. WebP is not the only way to make the web faster, so I hope Mozilla doesn’t give other advancements, like QUIC, the same treatment.

Doug Simmons

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