A format that does one thing well or one-size-fits-all?

The Unix philosophy states that we ought to design programs that “do one thing well”. Nevertheless, the current trend is to design huge monoliths with multiple unrelated functions, with web browsers at the peak of that horrifying journey. However, let’s consider something else.

Does the same philosophy hold for algorithms and file formats? Is it better to design formats that suit a single use case well, and swap between different formats as need arises? Or perhaps it is a better solution to actually design them so they could fit different needs?

Let’s consider this by exploring three areas: hash algorithms, compressed file formats and image formats.
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