Would it be acceptable on a social Website which features photographs of people to accept only JPEG uploads?

GIF animations are not allowed anyway since only photos of people are accepted. Also, all uploaded files are converted to JPEG thumbnails.

This would mean that for example PNG and TIFF would not work. But don't people have their photos in JPEG 99.99% of the time?

Does anyone have any experience with a similar Website, and statistics of what formats came in?

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    Do you have a reason why you'd want to restrict people uploading whatever format they choose? You're kind of pushing the burden back onto the user instead of dealing with any issues yourself. a PNG format isn't unrealistic to expect users to try to upload, neither is a GIF (or even a BMP). "We don't want that image, go and sort it out and don't come back until you've fixed it". Not the best User Experience really.
    – JonW
    Aug 7, 2013 at 15:29
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    I can see restricting .tiff and .bmp because they are typically much larger files and less popular formats. Also, .tiff has limited browser support. .gif and .png are popular formats and have great browser support, so why limit users? They can potentially be much smaller files as well. Aug 7, 2013 at 15:36
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    @SurrealDreams: The usual strategy is to A) have an upload size limit and B) just convert the file after the user uploads it.
    – Brian
    Aug 7, 2013 at 16:53
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    @forthrin: seeing as you're converting uploaded images to JPEG thumbnails anyway, can we assume that it's technically possible for the site to accept uploads in other formats and convert them to JPEG? Aug 8, 2013 at 10:35

7 Answers 7


I recommend not restricting to jpeg only:

  • Social media sites (usually) rely on people creating profiles and becoming active on the site. If at any point it becomes a pain to create a profile, users won't do it. If they have only a .png, they likely aren't going to go create a .jpeg to create a profile unless there is a huge incentive for them to continue. You want to keep barriers to entry very low.
  • This is something easily handled on the backend. In general, if it's a pain for your users to do something, but relatively easy for you to do it for them, you should choose to do it.

Size restrictions (dimensions and file size) are generally accepted. Take a look at some other social sites to see what the general file size/dimension requirements are and roll with that (unless you have a good reason that you can't go with the convention).

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    I personally find image dimension restrictions very annoying too. It's annoying that I have to compress it when I want to sign up for a website which restricts image dimensions. (Especially since my avatar is 1000x1000 pixels.)
    – jobukkit
    Aug 10, 2013 at 8:54

It seems strange and a bit restrictive to force the users to submit in jpeg format only. Especially since a lot of other social media platforms (your competitors) don't have these restrictions.

The idea is to enforce the least amount on burden on the users and provide a seamless user experience via submitting photos, filling out forms, etc.

These types of barriers will cause unnecessary confusion and frustration for essentially no reason.


As some user's are saying, don't restrict to just jpeg.

However, building in support for every format under the sun and in caves is a bad idea too.

I'd say take a blended approach. Build it so that it accepts only jpeg initially but log any attempts to upload other file types.

Then, if you have time, add support for other file types as necessary. This way you can add the main feature, "uploading profile pics", and then improve it to say "we support more profile pic formats".

That way, users can still upload a picture if they really want to and you have room for improvement.

Adding at least png format would be nice too though.


Converting image formats on the server is trivial for the most part. Accept any standard image format, convert to whatever you want it to be on the server (in this case, JPG).

Everyone's happy.


On a contrary, I recommend to restrict it to jpg. The only format to consider except jpeg may be png. Implementing support only for like 0.1% of users is too much effort with to little real value gained for the website.

AFAIK, the simple consumer cameras and phones save images as jpegs. DSLR's save its own raw format (may be different for various producers, yet people who deal with these are quite aware photographers, so their workflow is shoot-edit-export-upload (I'm a photographer as well). Supporting RAW files is not a good idea, then, it would be like serving raw meat instead of prepared meal. Besides, it would need far more processing power to process them, and thus - in extreme situations - could result even in denial of service.

  • Good answer from a product development stand point.
    – SuperFluxx
    Aug 7, 2013 at 18:46
  • PNG is also the default format for many image editors (Even Paint now), so if someone does a s simple "Save as" they may have a PNG from a jpg and not realize it. Aug 7, 2013 at 19:56
  • Your answer (second paragraph) is a good justification of why not to use multiple formats in the site; but why couldn't the site accept any format in the upload, and immediately convert to jpeg? Aug 8, 2013 at 10:30
  • Because 1. it consumes resources (TIFFs and RAWs I have dealt with are heavy) 2. In case of RAW's it does not provide a good results (no additional value from this). 3. The time/cost you need to invest in implementing this are not justifiable (forthrin mentioned 99.99% are jpegs - so for what sake?). Aug 8, 2013 at 10:33
  • Ignoring the number of users, and assuming that the servers can cope with the image conversion (it's a one-time operation per user), why do you say that in the case of RAWs it doesn't give good results? Are you saying that the resulting image would be poor quality? Aug 8, 2013 at 11:53

I vote for either JPEG and PNG. Most cameras save JPEG, but many image processing software use PNG as default. To most users, they recognize those two formats as "saving colour images without big file sizes and minimum loss in quality".

As a comparison, gravatar.com accepts jpeg, gif, png, bmp, or svg file. I even tried uploading a PDF file and it gracefully accepts that.

On another note, instead of limiting people from choosing a particular file type, you may consider limiting the file size instead - an image file 500KB or below pretty much prevent people from uploading a big BMP or TIFF without mentioning anything about file formats.


Ask your users what a jpeg and png file are - I'd hazard a guess you'd get a puzzled response. A picture file is a picture file - handle this in the back end infrastructure, as previously mentioned convert on upload.

To clarify my previous point - a successful upload would be agnostic of any preferred file format. Just upload my image file - any file specific jiggery-pokery is beyond most users knowledge level.


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