Why Are Web 2.0 Sites Compressing Avatars?

I have a bone to pick with these web 2.0 sites and services. It may not be a huge bone but it’s an annoying one at the very least. Many of these sites and services allow members to customize their profile by uploading an image also known as an avatar. These images are usually .PNG, .GIF, or .JPG files. There is often a maximum dimensions rule as well as a maximum file size rule in place.

I don’t understand why these sites and services have to turn my images into pieces of crap. Most of my avatars that I have created in photoshop look great, until they are uploaded to one of these sites such as MyBlogLog or Technorati. Let’s go through a few Before And After pictures to try and illustrate my point. The first image will be the image as it should be seen, straight out of photoshop saved at maximum quality. The second image is what is seen after uploading the file to the service in question.

First up, Technorati avatars in JPG format.

Before Technorati Before Uploading To Technorati After Technorati After Uploading To Technorati

Now lets take a look at MyBlogLog avatars in .GIF format.

Before MyBlogLog Before Uploading To MyBlogLog After MyBlogLog After Uploading To MyBlogLog

In case you can’t see the differences notice how the second image always looks worst after it’s uploaded to the service in question. The image goes through some sort of compression and the end result is a crappy looking avatar. I have tried changing the images to .PNG and .GIF formats, saving them at the maximum quality level but the compression just rips these images apart.

Why do these sites and services have to compress these tiny images? Why can’t I as a user have a nice looking avatar without compression? I mean, take a look at that example for MyBlogLog, it looks like total crap. I urge you companies to turn that compression crap off. I think the file size limit along with the dimension limit is enough to restrain insane avatars from overtaking your hard drive space. There is no need to compress.

I wonder if I am the only one who has noticed this? Please let me know what you think.

4 thoughts on “Why Are Web 2.0 Sites Compressing Avatars?

  1. Most often it is to cut down on bandwidth used. For example your first image is almost 20K and their version of it is 10K, that is half the bandwidth. Granted not a lot is saved per image, but when you consider how many times in a day that image is going to be loaded, and reloaded… it adds up.

    I wish they had better algorithms to adjust the images instead of just making them look like butt… I have written one (a while back) that literally just crop the image, got the color count and if the end result would suck we would bite the bullet and take the original).

  2. I suppose you raise a valid point, but I still don’t think it’s acceptable. But my argument revolves around these sites already having restrictions in place for avatar images such as file size and dimensions and yet they still want to compress an image to make it look like crap.

    I wouldn’t mind the compression if my image was actually over the file size limit. Then I could understand. However, if my avatar meets all of the requirements, there shouldn’t be any compression what so ever.

    Thats just how I feel about it. I’m raising hell over avatar images LOL

  3. Mostly an oversight. We tapped into a shared Yahoo image storage database and no one really noticed until we started using it for MyBlogLog. We put the word out and they’ve upgraded the compression (images are about 4x the file size but we think it’s worth it) and we’re good to go!

    http://mybloglogb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/11/cleaner-crisper.html

    Thanks for the comment. No need to retract your post, just let folks know that it’s fixed!

    Thanks,

    Ian
    Product Manager, MyBlogLog

  4. @Ian Kennedy Thanks for stopping by Ian. In MyBlogLogs case, I think it would be really important to ensure the avatar images were of really decent quality considering THAT specific image is the bread and butter of using your service. People end up identifying an avatar to a person like a brand name or brand colors. I’m glad that you guys finally bumped up the compression levels so that images are not mis interpreted due to the wacky compression.

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