Data compression reduces costs of data transmission and storage by reproducing the same or nearly the same data using more succinct descriptions. A compression system comprises an upstream encoder and a downstream decoder, the internal algorithm for both of which must be carefully designed to maximize compression efficiency. To operate, the encoder and/or the decoder typically use knowledge about the special characteristic of the data. However, whether specialized knowledge is used in the system, the downstream system is dependent on the particular choice, which reduces flexibility in system design and network transport, prevent future improvement without a significant overhaul to the entire system and losing compatibility with already compressed data. The Inventors have developed a technology to compress data in a novel way that defers nearly all assumed knowledge about the data until the downstream decoder—without losing compression efficiency.