Huffman compressionAlso known as Huffman encoding, an algorithm for the lossless compression of files based on the frequency of occurrence of a symbol in the file that is being compressed. The Huffman algorithm is based on statistical coding, which means that the probability of a symbol has a direct bearing on the length of its representation. The more probable the occurrence of a symbol is, the shorter will be its bit-size representation. In any file, certain characters are used more than others. Using binary representation, the number of bits required to represent each character depends upon the number of characters that have to be represented. Using one bit we can represent two characters, i.e., 0 represents the first character and 1 represents the second character. Using two bits we can represent four characters, and so on.
Unlike ASCII code, which is a fixed-length code using seven bits per character, Huffman compression is a variable-length coding system that assigns smaller codes for more frequently used characters and larger codes for less frequently used characters in order to reduce the size of files being compressed and transferred.
For example, in a file with the following data:
the frequency of "X" is 6, the frequency of "Y" is 4, and the frequency of "Z" is 2. If each character is represented using a fixed-length code of two bits, then the number of bits required to store this file would be 24, i.e., (2 x 6) + (2x 4) + (2x 2) = 24.
If the above data were compressed using Huffman compression, the more frequently occurring numbers would be represented by smaller bits, such as:
X by the code 0 (1 bit)
Y by the code 10 (2 bits)
Z by the code 11 (2 bits)
therefore the size of the file becomes 18, i.e., (1x 6) + (2 x 4) + (2 x 2) = 18.
In the above example, more frequently occurring characters are assigned smaller codes, resulting in a smaller number of bits in the final compressed file.
Huffman compression was named after its discoverer, David Huffman.
Stay up to date on the latest developments in Internet terminology with a free weekly newsletter from Webopedia. Join to subscribe now.
Webopedia's student apps roundup will help you to better organize your class schedule and stay on top of assignments and homework. Read More »20 Ways to Shorten a URL
If you need to shorten a long URL try this list of 20 free online redirection services. Read More »Top 10 Tech Terms of 2015
The most popular Webopedia definitions of 2015. Read More »
This Webopedia study guide describes the different parts of a computer system and their relations. Read More »Network Fundamentals Study Guide
Networking fundamentals teaches the building blocks of modern network design. Learn different types of networks, concepts, architecture and... Read More »The Five Generations of Computers
Learn about each of the five generations of computers and major technology developments that have led to the current devices that we use today. Read More »