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The issues noted in a post about webp file types are complicated to understand, but there's an even worse one that I just discovered. It's called an .avif file type. A number of website builders, like Square and Weebly, seem to be automatically converting all normal image files like .jpg to .avif files. Unfortunately, I haven't found ANY graphics programs that recognize it, not even Photoshop 2020! So it can't be opened. Does anyone know why some site builders are using it?

Combined with the webp file type used by many other major site builders, like Shopify and Etsy, the implications of major builders converting to a new and little known file type are likely to be very serious for internet images. When I save an avif file from one of those web sites, the ONLY option is to save it as an avif. But after saving it, then clicking to "Open as file type", which most browsers default to, instead of seeing for me, a long list of a dozen programs which I see for a .jpg, now I see NOTHING! None of my many common graphics programs see it.

I hope some web image experts can look into this.

4 Answers 4

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AVIF is an alternative image format that's related to the AV1 video codec. It has better compression efficiency and a wider feature set than earlier formats such as JPEG and WEBP. AVIF is likely seeing adoption because it's royalty-free and it results in smaller file sizes for similar levels of perceptual quality. This reduces the amount of bandwidth required to deliver web pages to users, reducing server load and lowering hosting costs.

Why don't any graphics programs recognize it?

GIMP is one of the more popular image editing programs, and it's had support for AVIF since 2022.

As for other image editing programs, my guess is that there's not enough demand for it yet. The usual workflow for image editing is to take uncompressed or jpeg source material, manipulate it, then upload it to the web server where it would get recompressed to AVIF as a final publishing step. Relatively speaking, few people today would require the ability to edit AVIF files in image editors.

Because the image format is royalty-free though, there are no legal barriers to prevent any image editing suite from developing support for AVIF.

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  • All the most use image formats are also free and open source, including jpg, png, gif, and svg. The increase in speed for images has not been an issue for at least 25 years, when broadband became widely used. However, making formerly common images turned into opaque codes instead of descriptive names, the internet and search engines like Google Images is being blinded, it would seem. Would anyone click on an attachment image named " 9eda45a3ef19ab7f33b3448ff78f85aa_b5a7caa6-a1fb-46a4-b75e-3515dc7a7b4e_360x," instead of one called "my blue guitar.jpg", for example? Why the secrecy? Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 21:20
  • gif uses LZW compression but the patent has expired (2004) on that. JPEG is subject to several active patents.
    – symcbean
    Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 17:36
  • @symcbean JPEG is definitely not subject to patents, the last of those expired around 2014. (Including the dreaded arithmetic coding patent.) Even its JPEG-2000 successor is finally patent-free. Most of the successors (like JPEG-XR, -XL, etc) have a completely royalty free license, which isn't unpatented, but may as well be for users. Commented Jul 6 at 5:21
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The "why" is simply that they're trying to cut down on their storage, bandwidth, and backup costs, which really start to add up when you run a massive platform website. If it wasn't avif, they'd be recompressing to a smaller JPEG, which would probably look worse.

And most likely some of the leads are technology wonks pushing for this new format, trying to solve the chicken & egg problem by just diving in.

There has been a third-party Photoshop plugin for quite a while: https://github.com/0xC0000054/avif-format

Support isn't quite as dire as when this question was first asked, but it's still fairly tentative, since people are still figuring out how to use the advanced features it (and HEIF and JPEG-XL) have, instead of just being a JPEG but smaller. Until HDR and maybe even depth start to become normal on the web, that's how it's going to be used. Designers are starting to play with that, though.

(Remember when CSS and PNG were in this state, around the turn of the millennium, and Flash was king?)

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Beside GIMP, Windows users can use digiKam, Krita, qimgv, qView, PhotoQt to view AVIF.

Some Windows programs like IrfanView or MSPaint can open AVIF when AV1 Video Extension from Microsoft store is installed. (HEIF extension could be needed too). Installing those extensions enable thumbnails in win explorer.

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You can also just copy the image from the webpage onto the clipboard, open a new document in Photoshop, and paste the image into it. Then flatten and save it to whatever format you like. It's a few extra steps, but if you need the image, it will get the job done without messing with incompatible formats.

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  • But it doesnt answer the question asked. Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 21:30

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