Cloudinary Blog

Jason Grigsby on Responsive Images: Gazing into the Crystal Ball

An interview with Jason Grigsby about Responsive Images

In the conclusion of this three-part interview the Jason Grigsby, we examine what the future may hold for images on the web. Previously: Part 1, Part 2.

EP: I want to go back to the idea that we started with, that images are fundamentally complicated; that they’ll always present us with problems. What do you think we are going to be working on and talking about in five-to-10 years with regard to images?

JG: In five-to-10 years, I hope this stuff is all automated and we won’t be talking about it. In the nearer term, there are a few things things we haven’t yet solved. The obvious one is that the image-set() specification [which allows you to use the srcset syntax in CSS] is not yet on par with srcset – it’s not implemented in as many browsers as it should be. image-set() actually existed before srcset, so it’s ironic that it now languishes behind.

Can I use image set?

Can I Use image-set()? Not yet, unfortunately.

Another thing that we encountered during our recent Cloud Four redesign – the SVG image element for embedding bitmaps in SVGs doesn’t support srcset. So we can’t have responsive images inside of SVGs without resorting to some pretty ugly markup.

I know Tab Atkins [of Google] talked on an SVG mailing list earlier this year about adding srcset to SVG, and there was some discussion, but it seems to have died out. That’s another area where we need to shore things up that have been left behind.

And, I think, people are going to start understanding Client Hints. Right now, the only people who get what they do are CDN providers or people who work on very large sites. Client Hints can really simplify the implementation for people.

EP: Yes!

JG: To the point where occasionally I think, why’d we go do all of this stuff with markup standards if Client Hints were just going to come along? But, you know, Client Hints still work best with sizes; at a minimum you need that. But they can really simplify client side implementations.

Client Hints specification

The Client Hints specification.

EP: They allow you to move all of the complexity of srcset from the markup to the server.

JG: And they can also replace some picture elements! You no longer need picture to provide different image file format options. You can have an img with the src pointing to an asset and have a server look at the Accept headers and decide whether a particular browser accepts WebP – if so, and if the WebP is smaller, let’s ship out a WebP. And all of that can be done automatically.

So, to get format adaptation, instead of having a picture element with a bunch of source elements with different types, you just have a basic img element – you don’t even need a srcset. Boom you’re done.

There is support for that right now. But we’ve got a ways to go to get it into all of the browsers, and also to support it from a server perspective.

EP: Cloudinary just rolled out support, and I’m trying to strike a balance between telling people to be really excited about it – this is here, use it! – while also acknowledging the fact that, right now, it will only work in Chrome. Hopefully later this year it’ll work in Firefox and maybe someday in Safari.

JG: Support should get better. But — we’re so much better off than we were before. Five years ago, we had no solutions for any of this. So any griping at this point...  Sure, there is still work that needs to be done, but it feels great to be where we are now, compared to where we were before.

EP: Yeah, it feels like there’s a foundation for people to build tooling on top of to make responsive images easy to use. But before, it wasn’t hard to do responsive images — it was impossible.

JG: People didn’t even think it was a problem! We’ve come a long way.

Recent Blog Posts

Reimaging DAM--The Next-Gen DAM for Marketing & Dev

There are great digital asset management (DAM) products out there for uploading, storing, managing, organizing, and sharing digital assets. With Cloudinary's new end-to-end DAM solution, you can also upload and manage your assets efficiently, but the journey doesn't end there. It continues on to the development and delivery stages, so that your assets can be seamlessly manipulated, optimized, and delivered to create an engaging user experience that will in turn, increase conversion and loyalty.

Read more
Integrating Cloudinary with Forestry’s Media Library

At Forestry, we believe that there is a bright future for static HTML sites built with tools like Jekyll and Hugo. These tools can create sites that run well, and are easy to host and maintain, because they don’t require any server-side code.

Read more
Video Optimization With the HTML5 <video> Player

Lack of experience and compression knowhow can cause significant user-experience problems. For instance, on a major retail site, I recently ran into a 48 MB video-hero banner. Pulling out the video and encoding it as an H.264 MP4 reduces the size to 1.9 MB. So, despite the desire for more video content, developers have not yet caught up to best practices. How do we get the best of both worlds without creating a disaster like the one above?

Read more
Build a Facial Emotion Recognition Based Video Suggestion App

Developers are always looking for new and creative ways to deliver content that resonates with the way users feel. Often using the latest technical innovations the market has to offer such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). What better way to demonstrate innovative uses of these technology in a consumer market than capturing expressions from your users and then serving content based on that expression!

Read more
Improve Customer Data Protection with GDPR Implementation

TL;DR

Yay! We've done it! Gold-Star for us! We've talked with all the people, made all the changes, paid all the lawyers and checked all the boxes. GDPR? ✅Done!

Not so fast. Of course, conforming to the GDPR regulations introduced in Europe is just the beginning. This is a process and a state of mind that must become part of our long-term cultural ethos.

Read more