The Death of JPEG-XL: A Heavy-Hearted Goodbye
Today, with a heavy heart, we at Peakhour CDN disabled JPEG-XL transformations on our service. A journey that had started with great optimism and enthusiasm came to an unexpected halt with the announcement by Google that it was deprecating JPEG-XL in their browser, Chrome.
For the uninitiated, JPEG-XL (JXL) was seen as a promising next-generation image format. It was royalty-free, performed better than its predecessor JPEG, and had just begun to see the light of the day with the bitstream being frozen in late 2020. However, Google, often dubbed as the overlord of the internet, with its omnipresent Chrome browser, decided to axe the young format in its Chrome 110 release.
The Rise and Fall of JXL
The decision to phase out JXL was puzzling, to say the least. As a CDN focused on transparent image optimisation, we had been keenly following the evolution of JXL and had seen substantial improvements and interest. To see it shelved so soon was disheartening, especially since it was largely based on Google's own PIK proposal.
The rationale provided by Google was that there wasn't "enough interest from the entire ecosystem" and the format did not bring "sufficient incremental benefits." This justification was surprising. Given that JXL was in an experimental state, it was only natural that widespread adoption would take time. Furthermore, there were no direct comparisons with existing formats that proved JXL's lack of incremental benefits.
Google's move underscores its hegemonic control over web standards, with other browsers left to follow the lead. This power dynamic is concerning. By deciding what features are included or omitted in Chrome, Google is shaping the landscape of the web, often in line with its own strategic interests. The deprecation of JXL in favor of their own patented AVIF format is just one example.
A Resounding Response From the Community
The response from the community to the news was not taken lightly. The issue surrounding JXL's removal became the second most "starred" issue in the history of the Chromium project. There was a wave of disappointment and concern about Google's disregard for the voice of the community and its influence over the future of web standards. It's clear that Google's interpretation of "ecosystem interest" may be more self-referential than it appears.
This incident, like many before, reminds us of the control Google exercises over the web and the impact of its decisions on the internet ecosystem. Our removal of JXL transformations from Peakhour's services is a reluctant acceptance of this reality.
The Way Forward
While Google's decision may have sounded the death knell for JXL, it is not the end of the road for innovation in image formats. We remain committed to optimising the digital experience for our customers and will continue to support those formats that promote better performance and user experience.
This incident underscores the importance of collective resilience and the need for alternatives that can mitigate Google's overbearing influence. Browsers like GNU IceCat, which plan to support JXL and similar formats, offer a beacon of hope, and networks beyond the web like Gemini remind us that the web is not a monopoly.
This is our message to the "big G": we might be smaller, but we won't be bossed around. The internet is vast and diverse, and there's room for everyone.
Update! Apple has announced JXL support, will Google react?