W3C Launches Responsive Images Community

April 2020 note: Hi! Just a quick note to say that this post is pretty old, and might contain outdated advice or links. We're keeping it online, but recommend that you check newer posts to see if there's a better approach.

Responsible image asset loading has long been a problem in cross-device development, and more recently, in responsive design. While developing the new BostonGlobe.com, we released an approach to the problem that worked well at the time, but unfortunately proved less optimal as newer browsers’ image prefetch “improvements” effectively broke it. Around that time, consensus gathered that device-detection-based approaches were most viable until we get better tools, and at that point we tended to agree.

Shift ahead a few months, when our own Mat Marquis penned the A List Apart article, Responsive Images: How they Almost Worked and What We Need providing great background on today’s workarounds, and a rough proposal for a markup-based approach moving forward. Hot on the heels of that article, the W3C has formed a Responsive Images Community Group, of which Mat is the chair, to continue guiding this idea through to potential standardization.

Filament Group is thrilled to see this idea begin to take shape, and we’re doing all we can to help (Scott here even released a functional picture element polyfill to aid in the planning). If you’re at all interested in the direction of this feature, feel free to follow, or join, the W3C Responsive Images Group. We’ll hope to see you there!

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