If you’ve taken, shared, or edited a photo within the last 25 years, chances are you’ve worked with a JPEG file. This file format is the standard for all digital photos, was around before modern digital cameras were available, and every camera on the market currently is able to export photos as JPG files. Just like many other technologies, though, it looks like we could be heading toward a change in the standard file format that many of us use on a daily basis.
During Apple’s most recent WWDC 2017 Keynote on June 5th, they introduced a file format that will give images better quality while only requiring half of the storage space on a mobile device. If you are an avid user of your mobile device's camera, you know what a needed innovation this is, as it is sometimes challenging to balance personal storage needs for apps, files, videos, and photos. This Fall, with the launch of iOS 11, iPhones and iPads will all capture and store images in HEIF, or High Efficiency Image File Format. The smaller image files will include all of the features users expect, as well as anticipating the needs of future users.
If Apple has its way, the standard file format everyone is used to will be improved and JPEGs will be replaced by HEIFs.
The HEIF format stores images, video, image bursts, audio, and text together in one file, that can be edited without compromising the original quality of the image. When editing or cropping a file, a separate portion of the file is viewed without taking up additional storage, essentially utilizing non-destructive edits. That’s a huge improvement from the JPEG, which when an image was saved, it gave you a final image with less quality each time it was edited.
What does this mean for an average user? At this point, we will have to wait and see. If the format catches on though, consider the extent to which images are currently integrated into our everyday life and communications. Software companies will have to adapt to the change by issuing updates that will enable this new file type to be compatible with current desktop applications. Additionally, websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat where images are a core component of the service will need to support the files, and browsers will need to adjust as well. It could instigate a series of huge changes throughout all segments of technology.
However, Apple isn’t the only one working to change our future. Google has also developed their own format for images on the web, called WebP. it remains to be seen which of these two massive tech companies' file format will become the new standard.