Photographers be aware, WordPress may convert your JPEGs to WebP soon

This isn’t a “the sky is falling” post. However, photographers that use WordPress should be well aware of upcoming changes regarding image file formats.

Sarah Gooding, writing for WP Tavern:

WebP, an image format developed by Google, which is intended to replace JPEG, PNG, and GIF file formats, will soon be generated by default for new JPEG image uploads in WordPress and used for website content. The main work for this feature was committed to core for inclusion in the upcoming WordPress 6.1 release.

In other words, if this change goes through, when you upload one of your carefully edited, authored, and compressed JPEG files to your WordPress website, it will get converted to WebP to display to your website’s visitors. There should, and likely will, be a way to shut this off. But currently it won’t be as simple as turning a setting on or off. Again, here is Sarah:

The notion that WebP by default should be opt-in was summarily dismissed and the conversation was not revisited before the changes were committed.

So far, if things continue as they are, WordPress users will need to find or write a plugin that will shut this feature off. I plan on writing one before I upgrade to WordPress 6.1 just in case.

What are my thoughts on WebP? They aren’t fully formed. Time moves on. Formats change. Based on the arguments of others that Sarah summarizes in her post, it seems like WebP is of little benefit in certain circumstances but could be a fair benefit in others.

I’ll be watching to see how this shakes out. If you use WordPress and would be concerned about an adjustment like this, it would be good if you did too.

Update Aug. 29 2022: It appears this has been shelved for the time being.

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