Google’s Open Standard File Formats

Image by Robert Scoble

There are many different kinds of file formats out there, most of them associated to certain programs or developers. Take for example Adobe’s PDF or PSD (Photoshop) files; all the different document files by Microsoft, Apple, and the open source equivalents; or eBook files that are solely linked to the Amazon Kindle. Many of these files and especially their skeleton or insides are protected or even secret. This makes it difficult for other (open source) programs to open, process, or create them. And it makes the task of providing perfect file conversions more difficult and challenging.

However, there are few file types, that belong to an open standard. Their framework is open and accessible, thus allowing many programs across platforms to process, display, play, create, or convert them.
The probably best known search engine and (by now) software and online services provider Google has taken part in developing open standard file types, that are supported by many devices, programs, and browsers. Today, we shall have a look at those open standard files created by Google.


WEBM stands for Web Media File, and browsers like Opera, Firefox, and Google Chrome support these files for video playback. IE9 and Safari, however, need third-party assistance. WEBM files are HTML5 based videos, and can be found, e.g, on YouTube, 4chan, or Wikimedia. Even Android devices (from Gingerbread onward) allow playback of WEBM files.

Google haven’t been the first to actually develop this format though, however they significantly altered the given format and gave it it’s current shape and functionality.

The most common programs and utilities to support and playback WEBM files are:

  • Microsoft Windows Media Player
  • VideoLAN VLC Player (on Windows)
  • FFmpeg (on Linux)
  • Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera

You can find more information at The WEBM Project.


Web Picture files, alias WEBP, are image files that allow lossy as well as lossless compression (and the compression is said to be way more efficient than with JPEG and PNG files). However, even with compression applied, the images retain relatively high quality. The big thought behind the development of WEBP files thus was to speed up the usage of the internet as a whole because of the small storage space required to save and load WEBP images.

Furthermore, WEBP images also allow for animation, and very large dimensions (maxing out at 16.384 x 16. 384 tiles). XXMP metadata and ICC profiles are supported as well.

WEBP files can be opened and viewed using the following programs and browsers (among others):

  • Adobe Photoshop (plugin needed)
  • Irfan View
  • WebP Codec for Windows
  • Google Chrome, Opera

More information can be obtained here.

Now, it is on you to decide whether you want to go on and use those media files used by Google for your images or videos. If so, a quick way to turn your videos into the WEBM format is to convert them. Likewise, JPGs, GIFs, and other pictures and photos can easily be converted to WEBP.

If, however, you stumble upon a WEBP and WEBM file and prefer having your videos or images stored as MP4, AVI, MKV, JPG, or TIFF, you can of course convert those Google files into the formats you need!