Episode #018    
24 May 2022
File format inflation

“Why do there have to be so many?” a friend asked me recently.

All she wanted to do was save an image (simple, right?) but she faced a bewildering array of possible file formats: .png, .jpg, .gif, .tiff, .tga, and on and on.

How’s anyone who’s not a file format expert meant to choose?

Here’s my account of what happens when file formats breed: why it happens, who benefits, and who bears the costs.

Pei-Yuan Wei created a version of the ViolaWWW web browser for X terminals in the year 1990.

I use elevation data from the US Geological Survey (USGS) to carve three-dimensional mountain maps out of wood.

Recently, the USGS ditched the GeoTIFF format in favour of Cloud Optimized GeoTIFF.

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“Benefitism is the surprisingly common vice of touting only the benefits of whatever it is you’re peddling, and wilfully ignoring the costs.”
“Never neglect the second‑order effect”