side by side comparison of a .webp and a .png version of the same image. The .webp is ~88% smaller

Introduction to the WebP Image Format

If you’ve been developing websites, you’ve more than likely had to use various images. Speaking from our own experience, they’ve traditionally been JPEGs, PNGs, or GIFs. Each one of the aforementioned image formats have their own set of advantages and limitations. However, these formats often fall short when it comes to optimization for fast load times and efficient data usage being sent to the end user. Aspects that Ignite Bright feels are crucial not only for end user experience but also for the environmental impact of our digital solutions. This is where the WebP image format comes in.

WebP is a modern image format developed and release by Google in 2010 – designed explicitly to provide lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. Using WebP, developers can create richer, higher-quality images at significantly smaller file sizes than possible with JPEG or PNG (on average 30% smaller). This reduction may not seem alot, but if you have 5 images on your homepage – each at 1MB a piece, you could wind up saving 1.536MB being sent from your server(s) to the end user. Now imagine these results for every. single. user.

This is a direct translation to lower bandwidth usage – which is an essential consideration for quicker load times, user retention, and SEO performance. In this blog post, we’ll dive into how adopting the WebP image format can help not just in speeding up your website, but in contributing to a more sustainable web.

What is the WebP Image Format?

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the WebP format was created by Google in 2010 – originally it only was supported on Chrome, Opera, and Android. However, per, the WebP Image Format is now supported across all major Web Browsers.

Some Quick Technical Specifications of WebP:

  • Compression: Offers both lossless (like PNG) and lossy (like JPEG) compression methods, using advanced techniques derived from the VP8 video codec.
  • Transparency: Supports transparency, similar to PNG, even in its lossy compression mode, which is a significant advantage over JPEG.
  • Animation: Provides an alternative to GIFs by supporting animations, allowing for smaller file sizes with better quality.
  • Color Profiles and Metadata: Capable of handling color profiles, metadata, and other components crucial for professional web imaging.
A sign that says 'Go Faster'

Benefits of Using the WebP Format

Faster Page Load Times

WebP’s advanced compression algorithms dramatically reduce file sizes without compromising image quality. This efficiency translates to faster page loads, which is vital for user retention:

  • Compression: Reduces image file sizes by up to 34% compared to JPEG, leading to quicker downloads (Source: Google Developers).
  • Performance Impact: A study highlighted on Tool Tester confirms that pages that load within two seconds have a significantly lower bounce rate of only 9%. However, as load time increases, so does the bounce rate. Specifically, when page load time increases from one to three seconds, the probability of a visitor leaving (or “bouncing”) increases by 32%​ (The Tech Report)​.

Improved User Experience

A smoother user experience results from not only speed but also improved image quality and functionality:

  • Color and Transparency: WebP supports 24-bit RGB color and 8-bit transparency, offering richer colors than JPEG without sacrificing performance (Source: WebP FAQs).
  • Animations: WebP animations use fewer bytes than GIFs, enabling smoother and more appealing visuals (Source: Google WebP).

Carbon Footprint Reduction

Choosing WebP aligns with sustainable web development by reducing the amount of data transferred and processed, thereby decreasing the energy consumed:

  • Data Transfer: Efficient compression means less data to move over the network, reducing the energy required by data centers and networks. This is critical because data centers are estimated to consume about 3% of global electricity and contribute 2% to greenhouse gas emissions (Source: Nature).
  • CDN Load: Smaller file sizes reduce the strain on content delivery networks, enhancing the energy efficiency of data distribution.
  • Eco-friendly Practices: By minimizing file sizes, WebP contributes to a lower digital carbon footprint, helping developers implement greener solutions.


Our preferred and most familiar tool for utilizing WebP images is Astro – which builds on top of vite. With the release of Astro 4.7, the latest version, offers robust support for image optimization, particularly for WebP format creation during the build process. This capability allows developers to automatically transform images to the more efficient WebP format as part of their build pipeline, ensuring optimized load times and improved site performance. Astro’s documentation provides detailed guidelines on configuring and using these features to best suit your project’s needs. For specific instructions and more details on implementing WebP with Astro, please refer to the Astro Getting Started Guide.

Some other tools that we discovered while writing this post are as follows:

  1. cwebp and dwebp Utilities:
    • Google provides command-line tools like cwebp for converting JPEG and PNG images to WebP and dwebp for the reverse process. These are versatile for developers comfortable with scripting and automation in their development pipelines. More details can be found on the Website.
  2. ShortPixel:
    • This is a freemium WordPress plugin that optimizes and converts existing and future images in your library to WebP format. It uses cloud and CDN technologies to enhance the speed and efficiency of image handling. Explore more at Hostinger.
  3. Android Studio:
    • For mobile developers, Android Studio provides tools to convert images to WebP right within the IDE, simplifying the process for Android applications. This integration helps in maintaining high-quality images at reduced file sizes for mobile apps. You can learn more at the Android Developer’s website.
  4. Vite Plugin for WebP Compress:
    • This plugin for Vite (a modern front-end build tool) compresses and converts JPG and PNG images to WebP during the build process. It’s useful for projects that use Vite for their build system. Details on configuration and usage can be found on GitHub.
  5. Webpack image-webpack-loader:
    • In Webpack-based projects, the image-webpack-loader can be configured to automatically convert images to WebP. This loader optimizes your images during the build process and can be set up to create responsive images suited for various display sizes. Additional information is available on StackOverflow.
image of a baseball backstop

Fallback Support for WebP

There are considerations to keep in mind in case your users are accessing our website with an unsupported browser.

1. Fallback to Standard Formats:

  • Use the <picture> Element: HTML’s <picture> element allows you to specify multiple sources for an image. You can include a WebP version as the preferred option and fall back to JPEG or PNG if WebP isn’t supported.
  • Example:
    <source srcset="image.webp" type="image/webp">
    <source srcset="image.jpeg" type="image/jpeg">
    <img src="image.jpeg" alt="Description">

2. Content Negotiation on the Server Side:

  • Configure Your Server: You can configure your server to automatically serve the appropriate image format based on the Accept header sent by the browser. This server-side approach doesn’t require any changes to your HTML but does require server configuration.
  • Technologies: Common server software like Apache and Nginx can be configured to handle this content negotiation.

3. JavaScript-based Solutions:

  • Feature Detection: Use JavaScript to detect support for WebP. If WebP is not supported, dynamically change the image source to a different format.
  • Example:
    var img = new Image();
    img.onload = function() {
    var result = (img.width > 0) && (img.height > 0);
    var src = result ? 'image.webp' : 'image.jpeg';
    document.getElementById('myImage').src = src;
    img.onerror = function() {
    document.getElementById('myImage').src = 'image.jpeg';
    img.src = 'image.webp';

4. Use Modern Front-end Frameworks:

  • Framework Integration: Modern web frameworks like React, Vue, and Angular offer libraries and components that handle image loading with fallback options seamlessly.

5. Consider Progressive Enhancement:

  • Prioritize Accessibility: Always ensure that your core content is accessible, regardless of the image format. This means optimizing for the lowest common denominator first (e.g., ensuring that JPEGs are optimized before implementing WebP).

Case Studies

The case studies below illustrate the versatility and efficiency of WebP across different platforms, from e-commerce to social media and streaming services, highlighting the substantial benefits of adopting this advanced image format.

  • eBay
    • Achieved faster image load times and improved user interface responsiveness.
    • Source: eBay Engineering
  • Cloudflare
    • Utilized “Polish” to automatically convert images to WebP, reducing bandwidth and enhancing performance.
    • Source: Cloudflare Blog
  • Wikipedia
    • Reduced bandwidth costs by about 30% and maintained high-quality visual content.
    • Source: Wikipedia Blog
  • CDiscount
  • Netflix
    • Improved loading times and decreased data usage for mobile users by adopting WebP for key visual elements.
    • Source: Netflix Tech Blog
  • Shopify
    • Implemented WebP across merchant sites, significantly cutting down image sizes and speeding up merchant storefronts.
    • Source: Shopify Engineering
  • Snapchat
    • Enhanced app performance and image loading speed for better user engagement by using WebP for snaps and stories.
    • Source: Snapchat Engineering
  • Google Play
    • Transitioned to WebP for app screenshots, reducing the image file size by about 50%, which helped in faster page rendering.
    • Source: Android Developers Blog
  • Facebook
    • Used WebP for images and user uploads, achieving up to 30% reduction in bandwidth usage across their platforms.
    • Source: Facebook Engineering
  • YouTube
    • Reduced thumbnail image sizes by over 10% site-wide, enhancing page load speeds and reducing buffering times.
    • Source: YouTube Engineering Blog
side by side comparison of a .webp and a .png version of the same image. The .webp is ~88% smaller


In conclusion, adopting the WebP image format is more than just an enhancement in web optimization—it’s a step towards environmentally conscious web development. By significantly reducing image file sizes and expediting load times, WebP lessens the energy consumption required for data transfer and server load, thus contributing to a lower carbon footprint. These improvements, as highlighted by numerous case studies from leading companies, not only bolster website efficiency and user experience but also support more sustainable digital practices. If you are interested in making your website faster and more eco-friendly, our team is ready to assist. We specialize in implementing WebP and other advanced technologies to help you meet the modern demands of digital efficiency and environmental responsibility. Reach out to us to explore how we can enhance your site’s performance while also making it greener.

Further Resources