Long-Term Viability of File Types Amid Tech Changes

It started as an internal discussion about raw camera workflow;  XMP vs IPTC and EXIF data.  (That would be the metadata that is embedded in photo files.  EXIF includes camera based data such as shutter speed and aperture, or the camera date and time. IPTC and XMP provide a mechanism for including information like the name of the person that took the photo, or a description (caption) or where the photo was made .) This is information that can travel with images as embedded metadata or as part of a second file called a sidecar.

We were talking about the virtue of using DNG, Adobe’s raw camera format. Of course the Merlin Digital Asset Mangement product supports managing DNG files in addition to other RAW camera formats and almost any photo format.  The developer I was discussing this with was concerned that the Adobe format may go away in the future, he paused, and then went on to say that there was nothing to prevent the various proprietary RAW formats from going away as well.

During the relatively short life of digital imaging, a number of photo formats have already come and gone. This has included other jpg related formats (planar vs. chunky, jfif vs. jpg), Image AXS format,  proprietary TIF formats, Kodak’s Photo CD format and tif-based raw format,  a number of Microsoft formats including .MPS, .PCT and .PCX as well as  targa (.tga) files.  I expect it won’t be long before GIF files disappear from use as well as websites move to jpg and png files.

We joked that there should be a “file of the future” format. So of course I went to my web search engine to search for FoF files to see if that file type already exists. It does. It is a format for a form to be completed (Filled out Form). So I guess our “file of the future” may have to be “foth” file or a “ff” file.

What would a so-called “foth” file look like?

In my perfect world, it would never become obsolete. Cameras and scanners could generate foth files. Any photo editing application would be able to open foth files or save items as a foth file. Any application that can open a foth file would always be able to open a foth file now and into the future.  Foth files would allow lossless compression, embed color space(s) and would allow for embedded metadata that could be defined at the time of file creation and any application that can handle foth files, would know how to interpret all of the metadata.  Foth files would allow for complex information like layers to be included as part of the file. A foth file could also be a standard container for other file types so that metadata could be easily transported.

I know it is asking a lot. For my photo friends it is like asking for a 14-400mm f/2 lens that is both small AND affordable.  They both come under the heading of anything is possible given enough resources. Or more likely they are like the sign frequently found in businesses; I can do cheap, fast or good. Pick two. Image

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