Apple Approves AVIF Photo Format for Faster Web on iOS 16


Apple’s Safari web browser may display AVIF image files with the arrival of iOS16 and Mac OS Ventura this fall, as part of an industry effort to speed up the web by reducing file sizes.

The AVIF file format, which has already been adopted by Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers, reduces size with more advanced determination of photo details to keep or discard.

Smaller files render faster in browsers, which speeds up the user experience. The smaller photo sizes also ease the pain of monthly data caps.

Apple’s support for the format appeared in Apple’s Safari Technical Preview test browser. Jen Simmonsan Apple web developer evangelist, tweeted that AVIF support will be coming in future versions of Apple’s operating system.

Apple builds the video, audio and image format support in its operating systems, so it is possible that other software may also benefit from the AVIF capabilities. Support for iOS and macOS could make it easier to use AVIF in situations like viewing thumbnails of images in video streaming apps or uploaded photos in Apple’s preview tool .

AVIF, developed by the Open Media Alliance, can significantly reduce photos compared to other file formats. Google has found AVIF file sizes to be about half that of JPEGs at the same quality. Netflix likes AVIF’s “superior compression efficiency” and its support for HDR images.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Adding new web-based file formats and tools to your smartphone’s camera app is a tough business. The JPEG format has been universally supported since its introduction in 1992 and offers enough speed and quality to make it difficult to dislodge. AVIF also competes with JPEG XL, WebP 2, and HEIC, among other alternatives.

But broad browser support is a critical success.

“We are proud to see AOM’s AVIF enjoying growing support across web media platforms and browsers,” said John Simmons, Executive Director of Alliance for Open Media.

Also happy: others who had worked on AVIF support, such as former Mozilla Firefox developer Andreas Bovens. “I remember when we started having conversations about AVIF at Mozilla, and then we sent out experimental support,” Bovens tweeted Tuesday. “Amazing how widely adopted it is!”

Microsoft does not support AVIF in its Edge browser, but on Windows offers an AVIF extension for Edge.

AVIF is short for AV1 Image File Format, which reflects its origins in AV1 video compression technology. Both photo and video formats are available royalty-free – a potentially significant advantage over alternatives like HEVC video and its derivative photo format, HEIC.

Royalty exemption requirements, however, are also at the heart of a European Union preliminary investigation into AOM’s AV1 license terms, Reuters reported.

AOM argues that the terms help competition, but do not hinder it.

“Our goal with AV1 and AVIF has always been to leverage AOM’s royalty-free technology to enable more web platforms, browsers, and users to cost-effectively stream video and images and better quality,” Simmons said. “By lowering the financial barrier to market entry, more companies, especially startups and small and medium-sized enterprises, can create new products and services, he said.

Apple’s support is a major boost for AVIF. This means that web developers can enjoy the benefits of AVIF without having to worry so much about falling back to another image format when AVIF isn’t an option.

If you’re curious about the file sizes and image quality of AVIF, you can try it out on your own photos using the Squoosh image compression comparison tool.

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