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The game of alphabet soup that is image file formats has gotten pretty confusing over the years. We see a new one every so often that comes with the claim it’s the new sheriff in town, and will become the defacto way in which our photos are saved and shared.


Over the last several years we’ve seen Google’s WebP go after the JPEG by promising a speedier way of shrinking file sizes with no loss in quality. Just last year it was famed programmer Fabrice Bellard and his new file format dubbed BPG that boasted the same quality of a JPEG at half the file size. Now, if you’ll direct your attention to the center ring, it’s the latest attempt at file format bliss: say hello to FLIF or Free Lossless Image Format.

Letters & Numbers


In the numbers game that is file formats, FLIF stacks up well; the tests developers conducted show that its compression is on average 35% smaller than typical PNG files, 37% smaller than lossless JPEF 2000 and 22% smaller than lossless BPG. Not unlike BPG, released most recently and touted as a JOPEG killer, FLIF comes to us with major efficiency promises, chief among those being compression ratio performance. In those aforementioned tests we find that FLIF files were:

  • 26% smaller than brute-force crushed PNG files
  • 35% smaller than typical PNG files
  • 37% smaller than lossless JPEG 2000 compression
  • 15% smaller than lossless WebP
  • 22% smaller than lossless BPG

Among FLIF’s other features are grayscale/RGB/RGBA, 16-bit color depth, interlaced/non-interlaced and support for animation. Jon Snevers, researcher and co-developer of FLIF, has stated that FLIF is still a work-in-progress and isn’t quite finalized as of yet, as it lacks features such as lossy compression and web browser support which are two fairly important pieces. However, Snevers adds that perhaps the biggest touting point of FLIF is that it offers this unmatched compression quality.

Time Will Tell


For now, we’ll have to wait and see if FLIF will become a truly revolutionary image file format, but what most everyone will agree on is that it’s time for the JPEG to be retired. Now more than 20 years old, it appears antiquated with it’s bloated algorithm, despite continuing to dominate the web. In an era where every tech move made is about speed, it’s a major surprise that nothing has knocked it off its perch to date. But when you consider that just about every computer system in the world can easily display a JPEG (or a GIF for that matter) you begin to realize why both of these image file formats are still standing.

After all, what good is high quality, lossless compression if no one can open the image? Kinda like that sound a tree in the forest makes when no one is around to hear it. We’ll check back soon and take a closer look at all the current image file formats and sort it all out in an effort to make that confusing bowl of alphabet soup go down a bit easier.

Alphabet II

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