It’s the dawning of a new era of color space on the internet, yet another change ushered in by Apple that will affect how we view images online. For years, sRGB has been the standard color space for web viewing, as it can produce consistent results across many devices that use sRGB. Apple has shaken things up by introducing the Display P3 colorspace, which they call wide color, on their newest devices including the iPhone 7 family and iMacs beginning in late 2010. Display P3 was introduced in 2010 and is a standard in movie projection in the United States. It is a much larger colorspace than sRGB and is similar in size to Adobe RGB. Display P3 and Adobe RGB overlap for the majority of visible colors that they contain, though each has an area where one can produce more tones than the other.
In order to prepare for the future and fully accommodate the current Display P3 devices, Instagram has implemented some changes to support wide color throughout the app including capture and display. Since Display P3 potentially presents the same issue as Adobe RGB when viewed on sRGB devices – inconsistent rendering from one device to another as the device guesses what the colors it doesn’t understand should look like – Instagram opted to store both a wide color and non-wide color version of photos to be displayed on corresponding devices.
One aspect of the process that’s interesting is the use of “canary” files which contain colors that aren’t viewable in sRGB in order to easily spot at which point, if any, color compatibility is broken while developing. You can read Instagram’s blog post here for a very in-depth explanation of the update process including code, and view a canary file that will look differently depending on which device you use to view it..
As Kish has mused about in this post, Apple is pushing the envelope once more and reshaping the way the average person experiences photography in their daily lives, ever so subtly in this case. People who aren’t looking for this difference in color presentation are unlikely to spot it, but it’s nice to know its there.