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Image policies for fast load times and more

Use optimized image policies to ensure your site is using the best performing images.

Luna Lu
Luna Lu

Images often take up a significant amount of visual space and make up the majority of the downloaded bytes on a website. Optimizing images can improve loading performance and reduce network traffic.

Surprisingly, more than half of the sites on the web are serving poorly compressed or unnecessarily large images. This leaves a lot of room for performance improvements simply by optimizing the images.

You may ask, how do I know if my images are optimized and how should I optimize them? We are experimenting with a new set of feature policies for image optimization: oversized-images, unoptimized-lossy-images, unoptimized-lossless-images, andunoptimized-lossless-images-strict. All are now available for origin trials.

Optimized image policies

Feature policy is introducing a new set restrictions on images that can be applied with development-time enforcement. Images violating any of the restrictions will be rendered as placeholder images, which are easy to identify and fix. These policies can be specified in report-only mode where images will render normally without enforcement while violations are being observed via reports. (See Report-only mode in the wild, below for details.)

oversized-images

The oversized-images feature policy restricts the intrinsic dimensions of an image in relation to its container size.

When a document uses the oversized-images policy, any <img> element whose intrinsic resolution is more than X times larger than the container size in either dimension will be replaced with a placeholder image.

Why?

Serving images larger than what the viewing device can render—for example, serving desktop images to mobile contexts, or serving high-pixel-density images to a low-pixel-density device—is wasting network traffic and device memory. Read Serve images with correct dimensions and Serve responsive images for information on optimizing your images.

Examples

A few examples illustrate this. The following shows the default behavior when cutting an image's display size in half.

The default resizing behavior
Fig. 1 — The default resizing behavior.

If I apply the following feature policy, I get a placeholder image instead.

Feature-Policy: oversized-images *(2);

When the image is too large for the container
Fig. 2 — When the image is too large for the container.

I get similar results if I lower only the width or the height.

Resized width Resized height
Fig. 3 — Resize width and height.

How to use

To summarize, oversized-images policy can be specified through either:

  • Feature-Policy HTTP header
  • <iframe> allow attribute

To declare the oversized-images policy, you need to provide:

  • The feature name, oversized-images (Required)
  • A list of origins (Optional)
  • The threshold values (i.e., the downscaling ratio X) for the origins, specified in parenthesis (Optional)

We recommend a downscaling ratio of 2.0 or lower. Consider using responsive images with different resolutions to best serve images on various screen sizes, resolutions, and so on.

More examples

Feature-Policy: oversized-images *(2.0)

The policy is enforced on all origins with a threshold value of 2.0. Any <img> element with an image whose downscaling ratio that is greater than 2.0 is disallowed and will be replaced with a placeholder image.

Feature-Policy: oversized-images *(inf) 'self'(1.5)

The policy is enforced on the site's origin with a threshold value of 1.5. <img> elements in top-level browsing contexts and same origin nested browsing contexts will only render normally if the downscaling ratio is less than or equal to 1.5. <img> elements everywhere else will render normally.

unoptimized-{lossy,lossless}-images

The unoptimized-lossy-images, unoptimized-lossless-images, unoptimized-lossless-images-strict feature policies restrict the file size of an image in relation to its intrinsic resolution:

unoptimized-lossy-images
Lossy formats should not exceed a byte-per-pixel ratio of X, with a fixed 1KB overhead allowance. For a W x H image, the file size threshold is calculated as W x H x X + 1024.
unoptimized-lossless-images
Lossless formats should not exceed a byte-per-pixel ratio of X, with a fixed 10KB overhead allowance. For a W x H image, the file size threshold is calculated as W x H x X + 10240.
unoptimized-lossless-images-strict
Lossless formats should not exceed a byte-per-pixel ratio of X, with a fixed 1KB overhead allowance. For a W x H image, the file size threshold is calculated as W x H x X + 1024.

When a document uses any of these policies, any <img> element violating the constraint will be replaced with a placeholder image.

Why?

The larger the download size is, the longer it takes for an image to load. The file size should be kept as small as possible when optimizing an image: stripping metadata, picking a good image format, using image compression, and so on. Read Use Imagemin to compress images and Use WebP images for information on optimizing your images.

Example

The following shows the default browser behavior. Without the feature policy an unoptimized lossy image can be displayed just the same as an optimized image.

Comparing an optimized image with an unoptimized image
Fig. 4 — Comparing an optimized image with an unoptimized image.

If I apply the following feature policy, I get a placeholder image instead.

Feature-Policy: unoptimized-lossy-images *(0.5);

When the image is not optimized
Fig. 5 — When the image is not optimized.

How to use

If you are new to feature policy, please check out Introduction to Feature Policy for more details.

To summarize, unoptimized-{lossy,lossless}-images policies can be either specified through:

  • Feature-Policy HTTP header
  • <iframe> allow attribute

To declare an unoptimized-{lossy,lossless}-images policy, you will need to provide:

  • The feature name, for example, unoptimized-lossy-images (Required)
  • A list of origins (Optional)
  • The threshold values (i.e., byte-per-pixel ratio X) for the origins, specified in parenthesis (Optional)

We recommend a byte-per-pixel ratio of 0.5 or lower for unoptimized-lossy-images and a byte-per-pixel ratio of 1 or lower for unoptimized-lossless-images and unoptimized-lossless-images-strict.

WebP formats have better compression ratios than other formats. Serve all your images in WebP lossy format if you can. If that is not sufficient, try WebP lossless format. Use JPEG on browsers that don't support WebP formats. Use PNG if none of thes formats work.

If you are using WebP formats, try with stricter thresholds:

  • 0.2 for WEBPV8
  • 0.5 for WEBPL

More examples

Feature-Policy:  unoptimized-lossy-images *(0.5);
                 unoptimized-lossless-images *(1.0);
                 unoptimized-lossless-images-strict *(1.0);

This policy is enforced on all origins with a threshold value of 0.5 (for lossy formats) and 1 (for lossless formats). Any <img> element whose image has a byte-per-pixel ratio exceeding the constraint is disallowed and will be replaced with a placeholder image.

Feature-Policy: unoptimized-lossy-images *(inf) 'self'(0.3);
                unoptimized-lossless-images *(inf) 'self'(0.8);
                unoptimized-lossless-images-strict *(inf) 'self'(0.8);

This policy is enforced on the site's origin with a threshold value of 0.3 (for lossy formats) and 0.8 (for lossless formats). The <img> elements in top-level browsing contexts and same origin nested browsing contexts will only render normally if the byte-per-pixel ratio meets these constraints. The <img> elements everywhere else will render normally.

Report-only mode in the wild

Publishing a site with placeholder images may not be what you want. You can use the policies in enforcement mode (with unoptimized images rendered as placeholder images) during development and staging, and use report-only mode in production. (Check out Feature Policy Reporting for more details.) Similar to Feature-Policy HTTP header, the Feature-Policy-Report-Only header lets you observe violation reports in the wild without any enforcement.

Limitations

Image policies only work on HTML image elements (<img>, <source>, etc.) and are not yet supported on background images or generated content. If you would like to have policies supported on broader contents, please let us know.

Optimizing your images

I've talked quite a bit about optimizing your images, but haven't said how to do it. That topic is out of scope for this article, but you can learn more from the links below and from the codelabs listed at the end of the article.

Experiment with the policies in origin trials

Image policies are available in Chrome 75 via an origin trial.

To participate:

  1. request a token

  2. Add the token on any pages in your origin using an Origin-Trial HTTP header:

    Origin-Trial: **token as provided in the developer console**

  3. Specify an image policy via HTTP header Feature-Policy header:

    Feature-Policy: **image policies specified here**

Check out Origin Trials Guide for Web Developers for more details.

Please give us feedback

Hopefully this article has given you a good understanding of the image policies and gotten you excited. We'd really love for you to try out the policies and give us feedback.

You can give us feedback for each of the features mentioned in this article to our mailing list: feature-control@chromium.org.

We would love to know what threshold values you used and found useful. We would love to know whether unoptimized-lossless-images or unoptimized-lossless-images-strict is more intuitive and easy to use, or if we should use a difference overhead allowance instead. We will be sending out a survey near the end of the trial. Stay tuned!

Last updated: Improve article

Codelabs

See it in action
Learn more and put this guide into action.