High-quality photographic images on web pages proved to be one of the killer applications for the success of JPEG. JPEG was included in web browsers from as early as February 1993. Thus, the boom in the web was parallel to the popularity of JPEG. In the second half of the 1990s, another killer application was digital photography, which got an additional killer application in the early 200s, namely digital photography by mobile and from 2007 smart phones.
—István Sebestyén (June 2020) "Some Little-Known Aspects of The History of the JPEG Still Picture Coding Standard (1986 - 1993)" ITU Journal : ICT Discoveries Vol 3(1), 12 June 2020


The JPEG was formally created in November 1986 in Parsippany, NJ, USA. The founding members (about 15) were individuals, but also had formal links to ISO TC97 SC2/WG8 (International Organization for Standardization - Technical Committee 97 : Character sets and coding, Subcommittee 2 : Character sets and information coding, Working Group 8 : Coded Representation of Picture and Audio Information) or the CCITT SGVIII NIC group (International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee -- now ITU -- , Study Group VIII, new image communication).

Among them were the leaders Hiroshi Yasuda (NTT, Japan), convener of Subcommittee 2 Working Group 8, and Manfred Woorlitzer (CCITT SGVIII special rappourteur), who had a substantial role in the initiation, at March 1986, and founding of JPEG. The founding members recognized that both SC2/WG8 and the CCITT SGVIII NIC group had similar goals in the development of a still picture compression and coding standard.

Nevertheless, the JPEG was a group of photographic coding experts, created on an ad hoc basis, and registered formally nowhere as a formal entity. It consisted of experts from ISO TC97/SC2/WG8 and (ITU) CCITT SGVIII Q.18 in their individual expert capacities, not representing their companies. These two formal ISO and CCITT groups were "parents" of JPEG because they were informed about waht was going on in JPEG and regular feedback to JPEG was given. They developed and wrote the JPEG specification that became the basis for ITU-T T.81
—István Sebestyén (June 2020) "Some Little-Known Aspects of The History of the JPEG Still Picture Coding Standard (1986 - 1993)" ITU Journal : ICT Discoveries Vol 3(1), 12 June 2020

Open Source Implementation

The JPEG-8 specification was a stable document from about the fall of 1990. It was picked up from the USA JTC1 (ISO and IEC Joint Technical Committee for Information Technology) member body ANSI (American National Standards Institute) by Tom Lane, who had founded IJG (Independent JPEG Group). The aim was to take the JPEG specification, develop an open source code and make it available to everyone free of charge. This occured completely independently of the JPEG committee. At that time, the JPEG committee hardly knew what OSS was and nothing about IJG.

The modular toolbox type of JPEG design was perfect for open source implementations. For the IJG, it was enough first to build those components that were felt most essential for their target applications. The royalty-free nature of the standard helped to avoid any licensing troubles with possible patent holders.

With Tom Lane, the author had the following email exchange, 4 August 2018

"Was JPEG-8-R the first JPEG specification picked up by the IJG?"

"As far as I can tell from digging around in old email, we obtained paper copies of JPEG-8-R8 from the X3 Secretariat in November or December 1990, which is more or less when the group started working."

"The first IJG code of September 1991 corresponded to which JPEG-8-R specification?"

"We had copies of JPEG-9-R6 by February 1991, and that would have probably been what we were working from for v1, though I found some mail questioning whether 9-R6 was actually any more authorative than 8-R8. By the way, my files show IJG's v1 public release as being dated 7 October 1991."

"When did IJG implement the finally approved JPEG standard?"

"I do not recall that we had to make any standards-compliance changes after the v1 release, although we gradually implemented larger fractions of the specifications. Twelve-bit depth came later, I think, and progressive mode was definitely much later."

"Who was your main contact in the JPEG team? I just remember reports about the progress of IJG, but I cannot remember who presented that. Maybe it was Greg Wallace the JPEG Chairman at that time?"

"I was in touch with Greg from about May 1991. I also seem to have been in contact with William Pennebaker from January 1991. It looks like Greg was by far the most helpful, though. I don't recall talking to any other committee members beside them and Joan Mitchel. And most of my interactions with Joan were later, when she was working on the pink book."

"Particularly interesting was the implementation of the arithmetic coder, that was included in one version but then taken out in the next version."

"It was already gone in v1.1. I do have a tarball of a prototype from May 3 1991 that appears to have a non-stub arith.c file init."

The JPEG also had its own patent policy. The so-called baseline mode, which was common to all JPEG variants to enable interoperability among all JPEG coders, had to be royalty free . Meanwhile, optional feature RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing was permitted. The arithmetic coder mentioned before was such a RAND component. It was only optional, so it could be left out from a given use and implementation. The IJG first implemented the arithmetic coder, but when they found out that it was a royalty-bearing component, they immediately removed it from the open source code.
—István Sebestyén (June 2020) "Some Little-Known Aspects of The History of the JPEG Still Picture Coding Standard (1986 - 1993)" ITU Journal : ICT Discoveries Vol 3(1), 12 June 2020