Google has been around for a long time now, and when the company first started out the idea of ‘broadband’, let alone Google Fiber, was only just taking off and even then it was pretty slow. This is what caused the proliferation of the ZIP file format, and years of bundled WinZIP software. Speeds simply weren’t good enough to download something without some sort of compression, and since then things have gotten much better, including compression algorithms and Google has been pushing ahead in areas like this. On the web, Google introduced the WEBP image format not too long ago, which is now in use on the Google Play Store, in order to prevent high data use from the likes of PNG and JPEG formats. Now, there’s a new compression algorithm in town, one that’s around 25% more effective than existing solutions.
As Zoltan Szabadka, from Google’s Compression Team, writes on the Open Source blog, Brotli is Swiss for ‘small bread’. The new compression algorithm is said to be “20-26%” better than the Zopfli algorithm Google created not too long ago, and compared to the likes of bzip2 and LZMA it compresses to smaller file sizes and uses “2nd order context modeling, re-use of entropy codes, larger memory window of past data and joint distribution codes”. All of this is a little above our heads, but those interested can read more at the source link below, including a study of Google’s comparing many of the leading compression algorithms together.
For users however, this could be a decent step forward. As emerging markets like India bring the next billion people online via their phones, using slower 3G networks, the more data that’s saved, the quicker the experience in the palm of their hands. The problem with such a new algorithm however, is that it needs to become an industry standard before it can make much of an impact, and the road to that is probably paved with all sorts of obstacles. WEBP was hardly welcomed by everyone, and while the new Brotli algorithm is probably going to improve all sorts of streaming and package sizes in the future, it’s whether or not Google can get the rest of the tech industry to play ball which will determine the real impact of such an advancement.