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May 21, 2008

Future Updates for Google Image Search

At the recent "Search Factory Tour" event (slides, YouTube video), Google announced that its image search engine has received a lot of attention from users lately and it intends to dramatically improve it. People no longer use Google Image Search only to find celebrity pictures or pretty images, they started to use it to compare products, to choose vacations or visualize unfamiliar situations.

To cope with the increasing number of images from the web and to provide better answers for the new use cases, Google promised that will start to add features that use complex image analysis.

One of the new features will allow you to find similar images, given a selected image. Since it's difficult to describe pictures using words, you will be able find a a group of images that illustrate the same situation.

After adding face detection as a restriction for image search, Google prepares to expand it and actually recognize faces. This will improve the quality of results for searches that include person names. Google doesn't intend to limit image recognition to people faces: finding objects in pictures is a difficult task, but it's a reliable way to filter irrelevant pictures.

Image search engines don't use the information from EXIF tags, that could offer a lot of interesting contextual details about location, date, image quality. Google will start to add information about geolocation from digital images.

The most controversial new feature tested by Google is the addition of display ads next to image results for commercial queries. Google's previous experiments with text ads weren't very successful, so adapting the ad format to the content could be a better idea. It depends on their usefulness and their prominence: the second mock-up displayed above puts too much emphasis on the image ads. For now, Image Search is the only important search engine for images that displays ads, but they're text-only.

If we take into account that, in addition to all these enhancements, Google developed an improved algorithm for ranking images (VisualRank), we can expect an entirely new image search engine from Google in the near future.


  1. Would be great if one of the EXIF tags indexed was the equipment used to make the image. Recently I wished this was implemented when I was going to get a new mobile phone and decided to search images made with recent ones in order to make a better decision.

  2. You can see most of these features already implemented on:

    Find similar pictures, filter images by colors, products, faces and landscapes.

  3. Hi guys,

    You should really allow an advanced search for exif data. Many people get cameras stolen, and the serial number is in the exif dataof any photos taken. Many artists encode their names inside the exif data. There are many things like geographical location, lenses used, etc that would be great to search for.


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