One of imgix’s core values is giving our customers flexibility in their image storage. We believe you shouldn’t have to move your images onto another storage system to take advantage of our imaging infrastructure, which is why we offer multiple ways to connect to them where they already live.
Our existing Amazon S3, Web Folder, and Web Proxy solutions cover a wide swath of our customers’ needs, and we’ve now added support for the Google Cloud Storage™ service as well, a much-requested option.
The imgix team just came back from Los Angeles, where we attended and sponsored a booth at NRF’s Shop.org conference, focused on e-commerce with this year’s theme: “This Is Digital”.
In line with the theme, current and near-future technologies were the focus at the conference. It was hard to pass a session or booth without hearing about the wonders of machine learning and what it can do with your mountain of customer data, or seeing the now-cliche scene of someone in a VR headset, mouth agape, wandering a digital version of a store.
And there are really incredible things happening tech-wise that will alter the face of e-commerce and retail in general. Disney shared how they’re leveraging customer data to create custom experiences online for customers that increase engagement and hopefully drive conversions. Instead of static websites that are the same for every visitor, you might encounter one of the many iterations of the Disney website based on your browsing history, purchasing decisions, etc.
Outsourcing our image transformation and delivery was probably the most controversial and important technical decision we’ve ever made.
As many developers know, there are few 3rd-party services that you don’t quickly come to regret.
Creating the right abstraction for a service is incredibly hard because simplicity and flexibility are usually at odds with each other. What is easy to setup on day one becomes extremely difficult to control for all the use cases you need on day 365.
In the case of Unsplash, photos are kind of our thing, so finding a service that would meet all of our needs should have been challenging, if not impossible.
imgix is a lightning-quick image delivery and processing service that performs image transformations (like resizing, effects, cropping, and more) on demand via an incredibly simple URL-based API.
In the 3 plus years of Unsplash using imgix, imgix is one of the only technologies that has scaled with us through thousands of product iterations, multiple platforms, and thousands of 3rd-party API applications while remaining incredibly simple and incredibly powerful.
While imgix does a great job of explaining all of their obvious benefits like limitless transformations in realtime, single master file storage, and rock solid reliability, I want to show some real-world examples of where imgix has saved us countless engineering hours and surprised our team with world-class features above and beyond what we ever expected.
One of the challenges of working with visual media online is that the landscape is always changing, but not every change is immediately relevant. A promising new image format might not be supported widely enough to adopt—until the largest device maker in the world adopts it and suddenly it is.
Part of imgix's goal is to handle this complexity so our customers don't have to. That's why we're pleased to announce support for the High Efficiency Image File Format (commonly known as HEIF or HEIC) at the same time it becomes the standard storage format for images in iOS 11.
imgix customers will be able to ingest HEIC images natively and perform our full suite of operations on them, including transcoding and serving them in any of the 11 output formats we support. There are no changes necessary to take advantage of this—all imgix parameters will just work on HEIC images without modification. This will be especially useful to customers who deal with user-generated content—iOS 11 users’ photos will display correctly even if they’re uploaded in the new format, which is currently unsupported by most browsers.
If you have any questions about HEIC, please reach out to your account rep or drop us a line at email@example.com.
Online publications tell important stories, and visuals are the vehicle driving those stories forward. The popular website Upworthy harnesses the power of viral content for good, creating visual stories that spread across social media as a way to raise awareness of important issues. The site generates over 50 million pageviews each month, but is maintained by a team of just six engineers.
Succeeding at such a massive scale with a small team has meant being smart and scrappy. The Upworthy dev team has a motto: focus on little things that have a huge impact. When they began searching for ways to boost metrics and streamline editorial processes, they noticed that image handling was coming up again and again. When a page was underperforming, a poorly-optimized image was usually involved. Pages loaded slowly because images were too large, or else the visual design of the page would be marred by overly-compressed imagery.
By design, the experience of using imgix is pretty seamless. Once a Source for photos has been set up, you simply put the parameters for the transformations you need into a photo’s URL and it is almost instantaneously served to your specifications.
Yet this seeming simplicity actually hides a lot that’s going on under the hood. Requests are rendered and then fulfilled by a robust content delivery network with a sophisticated caching layer. This means the request actually goes through quite a few more steps than you might expect.
There are big benefits to this sophisticated approach—it cuts latency, improves stability and maximizes performance. Yet it also has some implications for how imgix is best implemented. For that reason, we thought it might be useful to give an overview of what happens at each stage in the process.