Here’s another bombshell from WWDC last week: iOS 11 brings with it a brand new file format for storing photos. It’s called the High Efficiency Image Format and uses the unwieldy suffix you see above. It’s a new standard developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and is used in video compression as well.
I found a helpful side-by-side visual comparison of HEIF and other file formats on this Nokia Github page. While I’m not seeing the claimed 50% smaller file sizes for still images, HEIF does very well against animated GIFs. So there’s an obvious benefit here for Apple’s proprietary Live Photos.
But here is also where HEIF gets a bit contentious. The HEIF image format is also part of a new video codec called HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) which will compete against another video codec called AV1. Whereas HEVC support requires licensing from no less than four patent pools, AV1 will be royalty free. Perhaps because of this AV1 already has broad support from companies including Adobe, Amazon, AMD, ARM, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix and Nvidia.
How you feel about open standards versus user experience will very likely influence your opinions on HEIF. But hopefully our apps, browsers and desktop streaming boxes will be able to support both.