Lossy compression is a type of data compression where real information is lost.

This indicates that after recreating the data in the existing information, it wanders around with something less than what was in the original file. Generally, the goal is to use lossy compression instead of lossless compression.


The easiest way to understand lossy compression is to take an example of what happens when you copy a RAW data file from a digital camera to a computer. This RAW file can be up to 30MB and contains all kinds of information about color channels, information about how the shot was taken, and a wide variety of data for each pixel.

This information in a lossless format means all these things can be changed when you import it into a photo editing program with the right features. It also means that the color quality for each pixel is the highest possible.

Lossy compression is most commonly used to compress multimedia data (audio, video and images), particularly in applications such as streaming media and internet telephony. In contrast, lossless compression is usually required for text and data files such as bank records and text articles.

It can be advantageous to make a master lossless file that can be used to produce additional copies later. This allows to avoid relying on newly compressed copies from a lossy source file, resulting in additional artifacts and more unnecessary information loss.

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