April 12th, 2001, 08:15 AM
I work at a website design company. My employer insists on catering to AOL users when making sites. We have been having a great deal of trouble with our images in the AOL browser, because of the Johnson-Grace compression. My employer refuses to solve the problem by alerting AOL users to the fact that compression is used and instructing them how to turn it off. Instead, he thinks there is something we can do when preparing the images to defy the ravages of the Johnson-Grace compression. The problems we are having are, blurry and distorted JPEGs, and worse yet JPEGs and GIFs that appear with splotches of color not present in the image. The images of course look fine in IE, Navigator, or any other application, including the AOL browser when the compression has been disabled. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do when saving the images to defy the effects of the compression -- there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to an image appearing screwed up in AOL, so there doesn't seem to be any formula for avoiding it; there is no safe level of JPEG compression to use, it doesn't matter if it's standard or progressive, GIFs are no better off. Just for an example...the other day I was saving an image that contained a gradient. Originally the image was saved as a GIF with the exact colors, 128. It looked fine normally, but had terrible banding in AOL. I re-saved the image as a JPEG at quality 12 in Photoshop -- it looked different but still horrible. Then I went back to the original image and saved it again as a JPEG, with quality 4 in Photoshop -- and it looked fine in AOL. Yesterday I was saving some images that were just drop-shadowed text on a white background. Sure enough, in the AOL browser there was this big splotch of color on my formerly white background, so I started experimenting, saving at various quality settings (at that point I was using Graphic Workshop to rule out some kind of problem with Photoshop). So, starting with a BMP I saved in Photoshop I saved a few different JPEG versions of the image. When I used quality setting 75 it was fine, normal white background. If I used 60 I was back to splotches. If I used 80 -- splotches. So from my hours of aggravating experimentation I have concluded that there is nothing I can do to prevent the Johnson-Grace compression from mangling my images, and that is the position presented by AOL on their laughable webmaster info site -- that the only solution is to disable the compression or use a real browser. My question is this: I've looked at a number of other sites in the AOL browser, and they don't seem to be having the trouble with their images that we are -- is there something I am doing wrong?? Is there some special trick I don't know about, or is it just a fluke that the other sites I look at are, for the most part, ok and our sites get destroyed?