Browser makers Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla, along with two software consulting firms, celebrated a moment of unity and common purpose on Thursday with the announcement of Interop 2024, a project to advance the interoperability of web browsers.
The process began last year with the collection of proposals for web technologies that group members will try to harmonize using automated testing. The goal is to ensure that browser implementations of these technologies match specifications to make the web platform better for developers.
Still, Interop 2024 leaves out JPEG XL, the most popular proposal as measured by community reactions (emojis added to proposal discussion threads). JPEG XL yielded 646 responses, more than four times more than number two, which was also not included.
JPEG XL, an ISO/IEC 18181 standard, would be a potential replacement for the JPEG and PNG image formats, among others, and would be very suitable for modern graphics applications.
“Thank you for proposing the JPEG XL image format for inclusion in Interop 2024,” the group said in a post on the proposal discussion on Thursday. “We wanted to let you know that this proposal was not selected to be part of Interop this year. We did not have a consensus to include this proposal. This should not be construed as a commentary on the technology as a whole.”
This isn’t even about JPEG-XL, although its rejection does make me sad. This is about the Interop project
How this happened is not clear; the Interop selection process is not public, a fact that frustrates some JPEG XL supporters.
In response to the Interop group’s rejection, several developers wondered why there was no explanation as to why JPEG XL failed.
Student and programmer Tibet Tornaci wrote: “That’s it? That’s the answer to what is several times the most requested feature in Interop 2024? No explanation for rejecting the feature that received 4.5x more support than the runner-up? Really Where? “
“This isn’t even about JPEG-XL, although its rejection does make me sad.
“This is about the Interop project, which claims to work ‘for the benefit of users and web developers’, and is not accountable to the users and web developers involved in the project.”
And they blamed the usual suspect for JPEG XL’s misfortune: Google.
Yale student and infosec bid Cody Neiman wrote: “Situations like this, with JXL, were exactly the situations I thought Interop was good at: preventing a certain rogue manager at a company from preventing the entire Internet from moving forward. But instead, this was just another development thread that Google single-handedly stopped out of sheer ego? This is incredibly disappointing.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Interop section process.
Mozilla hasn’t jumped on the JPEG XL bandwagon either: the Firefox maker said it is neutral on the technology, citing its cost and lack of significant differentiation from other image codecs.
“Overall, we don’t see JPEG-XL sufficiently outperforming its closest competitors (such as AVIF) to justify adding it on that basis alone,” Martin Thomson, a leading engineer at Mozilla, said last year. “Similarly, the feature enhancements do not differentiate it from the collection of formats already included on the platform.”
However, Thomson said support could follow if there is enough demand.
Jon Sneyers, senior image researcher at Cloudinary and editor of the JPEG XL specification, explains The register in an email that it is Google’s Chrome team and not the Internet giant as a whole that has pushed back against the image compression technology.
“As far as I know, the Interop group’s decision-making process is not public, and I don’t know what criteria they use to decide which proposals to pick and which to reject,” he said. “I assume the decision will ultimately be made by consensus of the browser developers, who have made their positions relatively clear in the past.”
It makes sense that they would want to promote the adoption of their own codecs
The Google Chrome development team decided not to support JPEG XL in Chrome two years ago, citing insufficient community interest, partner costs, and performance testing that was disputed as inaccurate. And it has since resisted requests for reconsideration — despite Apple’s support last year and Samsung’s recent support and apparent interest from Microsoft.
“Chrome is ‘opposed’ because of ‘insufficient interest in the ecosystem’ and because they want to promote improvements in existing codecs,” says Sneyers, pointing to JPEG, WebP and AVIF. “After all, the last two are codecs that were partly developed by people from the Chrome team, so it makes sense that they would want to promote the adoption of their own codecs.”
“I don’t think ‘Google’ as a company has a veto,” he said, noting that many of the JPEG XL developers come from Google Research. “But the Google Chrome team is organizationally quite distant from the Google Research department, from what I understand.”
Sneyers said this is unfortunate because “ecosystem interest” in JPEG XL has increased significantly over the past year.
“There’s support now in macOS/iOS/Safari, the Adobe suite supports it – they’ve also added JPEG XL to the DNG 1.7 spec – Samsung has announced JPEG XL support in their next phones, and there are rumors of support for Microsoft Windows,” he said.
“Most Linux distributions and FOSS software also already support JPEG XL. There is also interest from DICOM (medical imaging) and PDF to add JPEG XL to the next versions of their standards. So the current situation is that virtually everything already supports JPEG XL or will soon, and Chrome is the only major software that remains in the background.” ®