Acronym Monday: JPEG

What does JPEG mean in plain English?

Today’s Acronym Monday is brought to you by the acronym JPEG.

We’ve all seen images on the internet named something like “cuddly-kitty.jpg.” The .jpg file extension is one of the more common extensions used for JPEG image files, which are a kind of compressed images known as lossy compressed images. Lossy compressed images are great for the internet because the file can be made fairly small without much noticeable change in image quality to the human eye. Smaller files equate to fast upload and download times, which also means web pages with lossy compressed images can enjoy faster load times.

JPEG is pronounced jay-peg, and it’s become fairly commonplace in the digital world. If you ask for an image from someone, you might say, “Could you give me a JPEG?”

But the JPEG acronym doesn’t really stand for a kind of file. It’s an acronym for the committee that created the standards for this kind of image compression. The Joint Photographic Experts Group first started the process of creating still image standards in 1986 as a joint working group of the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), but it also collaborates with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Since their beginning, the group has published 7 standards made up of 34 individual parts through ISO/IEC and ITU, the most recent publication being done in 2015. JPEG still meets several times a year to continue working on new standards.

Some of the standards they have created are:

  • JPEG
  • JPEG 2000
  • MRC
  • JPSearch
  • AIC

How these files are compressed actually involves some pretty complex mathematics—more advanced than the scope of this blog post warrants. If you’re really interested, take a look at Randell Heyman’s easy to follow video on how JPEG compression works. It’s truly a great video even for those who aren’t the biggest fans of math.