WebP by Default Pulled from Upcoming WordPress 6.1 Release

Last month, the plan for WordPress to generate WebP images by default for new JPEG image uploads was put on hold for the upcoming 6.1 release after objections from lead developers. The original proposal had been merged into core at the end of July, despite significant critical feedback and concerns from WordPress’ developer community. Yesterday, the feature was reverted in response to Matt Mullenweg’s recent post about removing it from core in favor of development as a canonical plugin:

I’ve been reading through all the conversation and issues here. I am interested in supporting new formats and improving performance, but I think this change being pushed by default to users when they upgrade to 6.1 is a lot for right now, including with some of the clunky interactions OSes still have around webp (and HEIC!) files.

I’m happy for support for working for webp and HEIC files to stay in core, as we should be liberal in what we accept and work with, but not with the change to convert everything to webp when JPEGs are uploaded.

During today’s Performance Team meeting, contributors briefly discussed the revert.

“We are still trying to figure out what a canonical plugin is exactly, and if that would work for WebP by default,” Google-sponsored core committer Adam Silverstein said. “We still have a couple of fixes to land for 6.1 around image quality when WebPs are output (which is still an option you just need a plugin for now).”

During the previous Performance team meeting Silverstein said Mullenweg’s post about the feature not shopping was a surprise to the team and that they were working with release leads to better understand concerns in hopes of finding a path forward.

“I want to acknowledge this is a blow for everyone who worked on the feature (myself included) and at the same time I’d like to encourage us to focus on how we can move forward given the current position,” Silverstein said. “Are there concerns we can address? Does a canonical plugin make sense?”

Participants in that discussion expressed concerns about getting users to adopt WebP by default if it is moved to its own plugin. It would require strategic rebranding to indicate that it delivers faster images, as most users won’t be familiar with the WebP format.

“I think if it remains a ‘feature project,’ it makes sense to remain in the Performance Lab plugin – we don’t know if moving it out of it would get us more testers (especially since the Performance Lab plugin has 10k+ installs which is a lot for a feature plugin),” Google-sponsored contributor Felix Arntz said.

“If the path of a ‘canonical plugin’ should be pursued, then of course we would need to take it out, but then the nature of the project would also change.”

Contributors will decide the next steps for the feature in future discussions. For now, users who were looking forward to WebP uploads by default can still get this feature using the Performance Lab plugin, maintained by WordPress’ Performance Team.

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14 responses to “WebP by Default Pulled from Upcoming WordPress 6.1 Release”

  1. What ever happened to the old rule “Don’t break the Internet”?

    Many people run old computers with old operating systems. Their web browsers are no longer being updated by their developers. Arrogant developers are pouting because they were told it is not okay to show the bird to the less well off.

    • I’d be more worried about malware than a few images not appearing when browsing the internet with insecure browsers.

      You could run a local proxy that converted images back into JPEG in that case. thats probably already required for the browser to understand modern HTTPS.

    • I was thinking the same thing. I find it weird that they’ve choose WebP over AVIF. Although I’m happy they’re not proceeding with this implementation, users should always have the choice to choose which format they want to use.

      • It’s not weird actually. The devs working on it are Google-sponsored and WebP is a format created/developed by Google.

  2. Excellent decision. WebP is often not smaller than JPEG, hosting accounts are often limited in space, and a CMS really has no business changing image formats and filenames without this being expressly chosen by the site admin.

  3. I tested changing to webp 6 months ago, only serving webp images.
    I had immediate feedback of problems for users, mainly older macs

  4. That’s exactly the issue: “Participants in that discussion expressed concerns about getting users to adopt WebP by default if it is moved to its own plugin.”

    I, and certainly many other users I know of, do NOT want WebP images!
    I always felt like this was pushed down our throats by Google interests, the company that developed this format and keeps nagging about it in its “search console”. As stated before, I gave WebP a try and didn’t achieve much except a doubling of my database with all the associated problems. My mobile speed score is in the mid 90s without this bs feature.

  5. I think one of the biggest reason for the pushback against this proposal was, ultimately, because it would have made a bad system worse.

    We need to move to “on first use” thumbnails, so that WordPress generates only the thumbnail files that are actually needed.

    Some very smart folks have been proposing this for years. There were also calls for it in the comments of the WebP “Proposal” back in March, and throughout the past six months. I hope Matt and the lead team will give this some serious consideration and encourage some effort on this. Of course it would be a huge undertaking, but if we can improve this system, it would be a huge win across the board (saving significant processor usage and disk space, and making backups/restores easier) — and it would make plenty of room for conversion to other formats, whether that’s WebP, AVIF, or whatever else comes along.

  6. I wasn’t aware of this big push for WebP (to become default). I’m certainly pro the move, but definitely makes more sense as an optional plugin rather than an enforced built-in default IMHO.. agreed.

  7. Thanks for sharing the information. I am still not using WebP image extensions for my blog images. However, Does not know how it impacts the loading speed. I hope, it will improve the image performance.

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