New JXL JPEG file format

Actually I take back one part of the above: it looks like the last part of the JPEG XL standard (conformance testing) was ratified just last week.

Some JPEG XL news:

  • The final spec was published earlier this year (in April), after being submitted in 2021.
  • Adobe added support in Camera Raw (for exports only?).
  • Serif added support in Affinity Photo 2 (just released).
  • Open source photo / imaging software is picking it up too.
  • Image hosting services such as Cloudinary are very positive: The Case for JPEG XL.
  • On the Web browser side, Firefox has an experimental implementation, and Chrome had one but just announced that they were not pushing it forward, preferring to focus on AVIF.

Hopefully more photo software will pick it up, maybe some cameras too in the future (that may take a few years).

The main competitor of JPEG XL is AVIF. The WebP2 format was abandonned this year. JPEG XL is better than AVIF for medium to high quality encoding (which is what you want for photos), and worse for low quality/low bandwidth encoding (which is what you want for video). Browsers would prefer to only have to support AVIF, because they’re already shipping support for the AV1 video codec and AVIF is a subset of that, so they basically get AVIF support for free. But if the image creation ecosystem (photo, graphics) has no interest in AVIF, and if it adopts JPEG XL then browsers will probably follow suit.

FWIW Affinity Photo is now supporting JXL too.

More JPEG XL support:

In browsers

  • :green_circle: Safari 17 will ship with JPEG XL and AVIF support.
  • :red_circle: The Chrome team decided against adding JPEG XL support to Chrome, citing low interest, but there’s been a lot of pushback from web developers (including some big companies).
  • :yellow_circle: Firefox is in “wait and see” mode (source).

In operating systems

  • :green_circle: iOS 17 and macOS 14 will ship with JPEG XL support in built-in apps (on macOS that would include Finder, Preview, probably since that uses Safari’s engine, probably Photos too).
  • :green_circle: Support landed in Linux desktop environments KDE and Gnome.
  • :yellow_circle: No news on the Windows side.
  • :yellow_circle: No news on the Android side.

In graphics/photo software

  • :green_circle: Tools like ImageMagick and ffmpeg support JPEG XL. You may not be familiar with these tools, because they’re command-line utilities, but they’re used on many servers that process images and are often embedded in other software.
  • :green_circle: Affinity Photo supports JPEG XL, as mentioned above.
  • :green_circle: Adobe: support in Camera Raw, Lightroom Classic and Lightroom (source)
  • :green_circle: Several open-source graphics software support JPEG XL: Gimp, Krita, Darktable (source: just downloaded it to check).
  • :green_circle: Looks like Paint.NET also supports it.
  • :green_circle: Pixelmator Pro and Photomator will support JPEG XL on iOS 17 and macOS 14 (source).
  • :yellow_circle: Photoshop: no direct support yet (besides going through Camera Raw to import a JPEG XL image to a bitmap layer in a PSD).
  • :yellow_circle: Capture One: no support currently, no signal from devs.
  • :yellow_circle: ON1 Photo Raw: no support currently, no signal from devs.

Overall it looks like the graphics/photo ecosystem is half-there, and hopefully support in operating systems (for file browsers, file pickers, but also often the image rendering system libraries used in a lot of apps) will generalize and not stay at Apple + Linux.

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Surely that is irrelevant? Unless phone manufacturers drop JPEG and adopt JXL as the default file format for photos taken with their devices JPEG will continue to rule the world.

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That is all very promising, but…

…even this won’t move the needle, I don’t think. iPhones already record HEIC but by default any export is converted to JPEG “for compatibility”.

What will be needed is for web developers/publishers to recognise browser support and start using these formats. Until Chrome and Firefox support it, that simply won’t happen.

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Irrelevant to the goal of “kill JPEG and replace it with JPEG XL”, sure. But I never stated that as a goal.

Personally, my goals would be:

  1. To be able to export RAW photos as JPEG XL for archival purposes. This one is achievable as soon as the software I’m using is offering JPEG XL in its export feature, and will be practical for me as long as the underlying operating system also supports JPEG XL (given that I’m either on macOS or Linux, I should be good here).

  2. To be able to shared those exported JPEG XL photos instead of JPEG, to achieve a smaller file size or higher quality at the same file size. This one relies on the recipient having software that supports JPEG XL, so for this one I’ll probably wait for Windows to support JPEG XL.

None of those goals rely on smartphone camera software creating JPEG XL images instead of JPEG or HEIF.

Again that’s a different goal (which I understand as “making websites use JPEG XL instead of JPEG, WebP or AVIF”). Not sure I even care about this goal. I’m a web developer, and being able to use JPEG XL on the Web would be nice, but I don’t care about it as much as photo and graphics workflows.

I don’t understand the focus on “JPEG XL has to be everywhere or it’ll be useless”. There are a bunch of useful image formats that are commonly supported in photo software but not in browsers (JPEG 2000, HEIF, DNG even…), and some browser-specific formats that are not supported outside of browsers (WebP). If anything, browser-specific formats are more trouble than formats that only work outside of browsers, due to how 99.9% of users interact with browsers (download images directly from the site; but upload images to a web server that will reprocess the image).

In any case, I expect that if JPEG XL gets a foothold in graphics and photo software (it’s half there) and gets support in desktop operating systems (here the big question will be Windows support), then Firefox and Chrome will add it. It’s already a compelling format for the Web, with significant demand from big site publishers, and the Chrome team is only stalling because they champion the competing AVIF format (and Firefox is stalling because they are understaffed). With the extra pressure of adoption of JPEG XL in desktop workflows, my guess is that it will tip the balance towards adding it to Chrome (and Firefox will follow for compatibility with Chrome+Safari).

But even if Chrome never adds it, I’ll be happy enough with good support in photo software and in operating systems (especially file explorers/viewers/pickers).

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Fair points, all. I was indeed thinking on a “replace JPEG” footing. Though if browsers did all support it, I think it would only help your goals, too, as software vendors would be more inclined to include it as an export format.

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