A smaller, more versatile alternative to JPEGs
February 25, 1999
by Alexandra Barrett
(IDG) -- In the future, we are told, everyone will have such a fat pipe to the Internet that no one will ever wait more than a millisecond for a Web page to download. But in the meantime, accessing the Net can be a real thumb-twiddling experience, and Web surfers are getting bored.
Hearing their yawns, Summus Technologies has developed a digital image compression format that could speed the time it takes to download an image by a factor of three, regardless of how they connect to the Internet. That's because the company's image format, Wavelet Image, or WI, squeezes an image into about three times less space than a JPEG, a commonly used Internet image format. Correspondingly, a WI images takes a third of the time to download, says Leonard Mygatt, Summus chief technology officer.
High Speed Net Solutions, which markets Summus compression technologies, is placing WI technology in the hands of Webmasters and ISPs, for whom the smaller image format could mean substantial storage savings -- not to mention increased user satisfaction.
"We want to provide them with better accoutrements for the systems they're already using," says Michael Cimino, HSNS president.
WI images aren't just smaller than JPEGs, they also preserve the original image better, Mygatt says. And they also have more bells and whistles. For example, WI images support regional focusing, embedded image enhancements, and progressive decompression. This is possible because of how wavelet-based compression works, breaking images into layers of resolution, Mygatt says.
"This allows you to be very specific about the part of the image to which you want to apply processing," Mygatt adds.
While all this sounds complicated, end-users should have no trouble viewing WI images, Mygatt stresses. If you're using the Internet Explorer browser and you encounter a WI image, a viewer is automatically downloaded as an ActiveX control. Netscape users have a "marginally more complicated experience," and must download a plug-in, which is free on the Summus web site.
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