WordPress reconsiders the default WebP proposal

WordPress has announced that it is reconsidering its proposal to roll out automatic WebP image generation due to the heated opposition received for the new feature. The announcement stated that they would formally seek suggestions put forward by the WordPress community in order to make a better decision for the next steps.

Enable WebP by default

WordPress originally announced a proposal to add a feature that would automatically generate multiple versions of every image used on a website as well as WebP versions of those images.

The purpose of the new feature was to allow publishers to easily upload images to WordPress and to enable WordPress to produce WebP-optimized builds. The new WebP format would help reduce file sizes and increase the performance of every WordPress website.

Concerns quickly arose about the new WebP feature as many determined that some sites would quickly run out of disk space to archive up to a million additional images.

Some members of the WordPress ecosystem have suggested that the feature does not ship as an auto-enabled feature. They said it would be better if the feature was disabled by default.

Conflict with WordPress design goals

The suggestion to ship the new WebP feature in a disabled state by default went against the WordPress philosophy known as Decisions, not optionswhich is a design goal of shipping an out-of-the-box product with minimal configuration.

WordPress outlines five major design goals in its official philosophical statement

They are paraphrased below:

  1. Functional out of the box
  2. Designed for the majority of users
  3. Decisions, not options (developers make decisions on behalf of users)
  4. Basic WordPress functionality should be needed by 80% of users
  5. Simplify all tasks

The Decisions, Not Options philosophy was specifically cited by WordPress as a justification for making WebP functionality “enabled” by default and not shipping with a UI to disable it.

Here is what this design philosophy says:

“When we make decisions, we consider the users first. A good example of this consideration is software options.

Every time you give a user an option, you are asking them to make a decision. When a user does not care or understand the option, it ultimately leads to frustration.

As developers we sometimes think providing options for everything is a good thing, you can never have too many choices, right? Ultimately, these choices end up being technical choices, choices that don’t interest the average end user.

It is our duty as developers to make smart design decisions and avoid putting the burden of technical choices on our end users.

The prospect of shipping a disruptive feature with no easy way to disable it has set off alarm bells throughout the WordPress ecosystem.

Adam Silverstein, the Google software developer who works on WordPress is the one who quoted the Decisions, not options goal for the new WebP feature that was announced on March 28, 2022 (Enabling WebP by Default).

The principle states that it is best for developers to make decisions about options on behalf of users, because building a product with multiple options is tedious.

This design goal fits into the general philosophy of making every WordPress installation work out of the box and functional for the majority of users.

Opposition from the WordPress community

In an exceptionally passionate comments section on the proposal, the majority of commenters were alarmed by the possibility that publishers would run out of disk space and experience at worst non-functional websites and significantly higher expenses due to the need for buy more disk space on their website. host.

WordPress announces that it is reassessing the deployment of WebP features

In today’s announcement, WordPress lead developer Adam Silverstein acknowledged the concerns of the WordPress community and promised that the next step would be to re-evaluate the proposal and come back with nicer options.

He wrote:

“The performance team has heard the feedback and takes the concerns of the community seriously.

With the help of the community, we will work to conduct additional data-driven research. Based on our findings, we will reevaluate our proposed approach to enabling WebP by default.

The statement stated that they would investigate the disk storage impact of creating additional WebP images and a separate concern about WebP’s compatibility with other features such as email clients, RSS readers, and sideloading. lazy.

The GitHub repository for researching the impact of WebP functionality on disk storage states:

“This issue relates to search and analysis related to the concern about the new Enable WebP by Default feature creating too many files.

Many users were concerned about the proposed doubling of the number of image files, leading to increased hosting costs, lack of disk space (or “inodes”), or backup failure.

After the above research is completed, WordPress is committed to reassessing whether to enable or disable WebP functionality by default, as well as consider a user interface that will make it easier to enable or disable the feature.

WordPress Community Response

The WordPress community greeted the news of these with overwhelmingly positive feedback.

A typical comment:

“Thanks for the update @adamsilverstein, as always you have very graciously addressed the feedback from the previous post and I look forward to what the Performance team learns in this further testing and research and appreciate all efforts to ensure that WordPress is cutting edge and competitive in the CMS space.

All in all, it looks like the WordPress ecosystem worked fantastically to make a good decision to reassess the impact of the WebP proposal and not rush into a decision that could have had a detrimental impact on the editors.


Read the official WordPress announcement

Default WebP proposal tracking

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